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HYDERABAD, Dec 14: Spiritual head of the Hur Jamaat and chief of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional Pir Pagara Syed Sibghatullah Shah has said that a conspiracy is being hatched to allot opposition benches to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to fulfil a constitutional formality that requires consultation with the opposition for the formation of a caretaker set-up.

“It is being done to be able to rig general elections on a massive scale. MQM friends should understand there is already great unrest on the issue of the Sindh People’s Local Government Act and now if the elections are rigged it will add fuel to the fire,” said Pir Pagara.

He was addressing a large public meeting at a ground off the National Highway on Friday. It was attended in large numbers by his mureeds and supporters of the PML-F and nationalist parties which are part of the Sindh Bachayo Committee (SBC).

Pir Pagara stressed: “The MQM has to work with Sindhis. Sindhis have to work with the MQM. We consider you [the MQM] Sindhis and we have no problems with you. The poor only need justice and self-respect, which are non-existent in today’s Sindh,” he said.

He stated categorically that the PML-F supported storage dams on upstream Indus but rejected the Kalabagh dam.

PML-F support for storage dams may invite the ire of nationalists, the party’s new found friends in SBC who reject all water projects and dams upstream Indus.

Gen Ayub Khan preferred the Tarbela dam over Kalabagh, Gen Yahya and Gen Zia did not dare touch the project but Z.A. Bhutto audaciously went ahead with it and approved the Kalabagh dam as a mega project in 1973-74, claimed Pir Pagara.

It was not Gen Zia who began work on the disputed project but it was the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto who allocated funds for the dam in 1988 and directed the planning and development department to get it redesigned as a barrage, he said.

About his party’s decision to quit the coalition, Pir Pagara said that the PML-F decided to quit the government after the ruling party failed to consult it on the LG law.

“When the PPP is in majority (even without PML-F) and it doesn’t need us then why is it recklessly surrendering everything? The law gives mayor powers of the chief minister although the same cannot be exercised even by the governor,” he said.

He said that he was working with the SBC on one-point agenda. “My slogan is very clear. I believe in ‘muttahid Sindh, muttahid Pakistan’ because I owe my respect to Pakistan,” he said.

SBC convener and chief of Sindh United Party, Syed Jalal Mehmood Shah, said the public meeting was a slap on the face of anti-Sindh forces. “We have an unconditional love for Sindh and Sindh wants to be part of Pakistan on the basis of equality,” he said. Mr Shah said that ‘jeay Sindh’ and “bhej Pagara’ carried same meanings. Pir Pagara had inherited sentiments of his disciples in the same way as he (Jalal) had inherited love of Sindh, he said.

Sindh Taraqqi-pasand Party chairman Dr Qadir Magsi termed the public meeting a referendum against the LG law. “Today a decision has to be taken whether Sindh is to be ruled by terrorists of the MQM and people from Kandahar like Shahi Syed or sons of the soil,” he said.

He said that Sindhis spurned slavery and wanted to live with dignity. “People have come to Sindh from different parts of South Asia and got prosperous while native Sindhis are living in sub-human conditions,” he said. “The public meeting offers a defining moment for Sindh today and we need to move forward with a clear head and firm principles,” he said.

Awami Tehreek president Ayaz Latif Palijo said that people at the public meeting had issued a charge-sheet against the PPP government which had made an attempt to break apart Sindh.

He asked the government why an anti-Kalabagh resolution was not being passed by the National Assembly when it had a majority in the assembly and its coalition partners, the ANP and the MQM, shared identical views on the dam.

“What has stopped the government from convening a meeting of the Council of Common Interests in which it has four votes?,” he said.

Towards the end of the gathering, writer Manzoor Solangi enthralled the audience with rendition of his satirical poetry about the government, LG law and President Asif Ali Zardari.

PML-F Sindh general secretary Imtiaz Sheikh, PML-F leader Sadruddin Shah, National People’s Party chief Ghulam Murtaza Jatoi, former Punjab governor Ghulam Mustafa Khar, Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (Bashir) chairman Sanan Qureshi, JUI-F general secretary Sindh Dr Khalid Mehmood Soomro, Sindh Jamaat-i-Islami chief Asadullah Bhutto, Jami Chandio, a writer, Abdullah Hussain Haroon, former Pakistan’s representative in the UN, Sindh PML-N general secretary Saleem Zia, MNAs Ghaus Bux Mahar and Zafar Ali Shah, MPAs Nusrat Sehar Abbasi and Marvi Rashdi also addressed the gathering.