According to the cable titled “MQM and PPP spar over law and order, local governance”, the members of the two parties have been blaming each other for the continued violence in Karachi during their separate conversations with the US diplomats. – File Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: Former Sindh minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza burst against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement last month but the issues had been pinching the ruling party hardliners for almost two years, reveals WikiLeaks.

A secret cable sent by then US consul general Stephen G. Fakan in Karachi to Washington through its Islamabad Embassy on February 9, 2010, shows that both the Pakistan People’s Party and the MQM had constantly been discussing the contentious issues of the local government system in Sindh and the law and order situation in Karachi with the Americans for two years.

According to the cable titled “MQM and PPP spar over law and order, local governance”, the members of the two parties have been blaming each other for the continued violence in Karachi during their separate conversations with the US diplomats.

Moreover, it shows the Americans believe that “the terrorist attack in Karachi on Ashura and several recent periods of elevated target killings in the city have been the backdrop to the debate on the future of local governance in Sindh”.

The cable reveals that three PPP provincial ministers – Agha Siraj Durrani, Pir Mazharul Haq and Zulfikar Mirza (the then provincial home minister) – had been in constant contact with the US diplomats over the issues of law and order in Karachi and local government system.

According to the cable, Mr Mirza had once told the Americans that the PPP was ready to accept the MQM’s demand to retain the Nazim-based system introduced by Gen Pervez Musharraf.

“In November 2009, Sindh Home Minister Mirza told CG Fakan, that to keep the national and provincial coalitions together the PPP would compromise, agreeing to retention of the current system with some amendments,” says the cable.

The cable quotes Sindh Minister for Local Bodies Agha Siraj Durrani as having told the Americans that “the MQM wants elections under the present Nazims and will agree to administrator-appointment only if elections are held within 90 days. If elections are not held, the system reverts back, and the original Nazims resume office”.

On the other hand, then MQM minister for youth affairs Faisal Sabzwari reiterated that the party would only concede with such assurances, noting that reverting back to the 1979 commissioner system would create unspecified “serious issues” between the parties.

Whereas Mr Durrani told the US diplomat that the PPP believed that the elections under the Nazims would not be fair and free because most Nazims of the 23 districts of Sindh were “hostile to the PPP” and the deadlock awaited decision by President Zardari as “it appears to be futile to hold any further meetings with MQM”.

Mr Durrani said the “MQM’s intransigence kept them from negotiating at the lengthy prior meetings and that the party brings fresh demands at every meeting and goes back on whatever was agreed upon during the last one in an attempt to maintain their hold over Sindh”.

The PPP also requested an MQM list of people whom it trusted to be appointed as administrators.

The only issue agreed to in the January 13 meeting was that a report about the discussions, agreements and disagreements would be prepared for Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Governor Ishratul Ibad, updating them of progress at each meeting.

Showing distrust in the MQM, senior minister and a leading member of the PPP-MQM core committee Pir Mazharul Haq also said the PPP “wanted documentation of everything discussed in the core meetings as MQM changes its stance every time (we) meet”.

The agreement between the PPP and the MQM in January last year over the appointment of caretaker administrators in place of Nazims had surprised the US which is evident from the cable which says: “In an unexpected development on January 16, both parties agreed to appoint caretaker administrators – but again without a formal mechanism to execute that decision.”

“Coalition partners (MQM and PPP, with the ANP on the periphery) have yet to agree on a path forward, instead seeking extensive amendments to the existing governance system and working to diminish the other party’s strength in Karachi and across the province,” it says.

“This violence pits the MQM against the PPP on law and order – Karachi Nazim Mustafa Kamal versus Sindh Home Minister Zulfikar Mirza, each blaming the other for not suppressing the onslaught,” says the cable.

Through the same cable, the US consul general informed his bosses about the February 2 proceedings of the Sindh Assembly when Dr Zulfiqar Mirza in a “fiery speech” blamed the MQM for Karachi’s target killings prompting the latter to stage a walkout and hold a news conference.

“Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani also reprimanded the Karachi Nazim for interfering in the provincial government, claiming that Kamal was suffering from mental imbalances,” says the cable, adding: “As a result, the tension moved into the streets resulting in the killings of 11 members of the PPP, MQM and ANP.”

“That evening, the Sindh Governor (Mr Ibad) called CG Fakan asking him to help settle everyone down and to urge the parties to continue negotiations,” it says.

Later, calls between President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and MQM chief Altaf Hussain brought assurances from the top that the two parties remained committed to the coalition.

But taking nothing to chance, Interior Minister Malik was dispatched to Karachi on February 3, to return all parties back to the negotiating table.

In a February 4 meeting, the MQM assured Mr Fakan that they would take the high road, but noted that the PPP and Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza remained “quite rigid in negotiations”.

The Karachi Nazim and the deputy Nazim discussed resolution details in vague language that leaves several outcomes open – elections would be held either within 90 or 120 days or not held entirely in the event of “unforeseen events” (for the law and order situation).

The prevailing opinion in the PPP remained that these clauses provided the MQM with incentive to create and maintain continued unrest and violence in Karachi for the stipulated 90 days, preventing party-based elections in order to revert to their certain control through the original Nazims. However, the MQM contacts worry that, even in the absence of “unforeseen events”, the PPP will not hold elections at all.

In his comments, the US consul general said: “Karachi is in a vicious cycle where both parties may have reason to affect unforeseen events, negotiate again and come to the same impasse in a few weeks or months.”

“The two parties numerically need each other, but that does not mean that have to like each other, or even get along,” the CG commented.

Through another cable, the US consul general not only informed Washington about appointments of Lala Fazlur Rehman as administrator for Karachi in place of Nazim Mustafa Kamal and that of Mohammad Altaf Katri as administrator in Hyderabad replacing Kanwar Naveed Jamil of the MQM.

The secret cable shows that Mustafa Kamal had already predicted before the US diplomats that Lala Fazlur Rehman would replace him in Karachi. “Ex-Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal’s prediction was correct as DCO Rehman will take over Kamal’s old office until the elections. Despite his party affiliation, and being ethnically Pathan, Rehman has worked closely with leaders of both PPP and MQM and presents a suitable leadership compromise for both leading parties,” says the cable.

Later, Sindh Home Secretary Arif Khan also met the Consul General Fakan and offered insight into this choice. “Despite calling him a falling down drunk, Khan firmly stated that Rehman was the best candidate for the job and asserted that when he is charged with a serious responsibility, Rehman breaks the bottle and will show restraint,” the cable says.

“In an interesting aside, according to Khan, the administrator candidacy discussion went all the way up to Zardari who also questioned Rehman’s capabilities due to the excessive drinking”, Mr Fakan said in the message.