LAHORE: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) formally launched on Saturday its election campaign in Punjab by organising a big rally at Lahore’s Gulshan-i-Ravi.

In a telephonic address, MQM chief Altaf Hussain said his party wanted to make Pakistan a welfare state as envisioned by the Quaid-i-Azam. “A welfare state where poor and wealthy people could have equal rights,” Mr Hussain said in his style.

He said the MQM had fielded 671 candidates for National and provincial assembly seats from across the country and none of them was a relative of his or any other member of the party’s coordination committee.

“Our candidates are not waderas or jagirdars (feudal lords),” he said, adding that the MQM’s candidates were people from the middle and lower classes. He said the country could prosper only when such people entered the parliament.

If voted to power, he said, the MQM would ensure equal distribution of funds in Punjab. Development schemes would be launched in all cities and towns, and not only in Lahore, he added.

The MQM chief said hereditary politics had plagued Punjab since 1947 and people were being misled through false claims. “Look at me. I have no palaces in the country. I never got a piece of land,” he claimed.

Meanwhile, talking to reporters after a meeting with members of business community at the Federation of Pakistan Chambers and Commerce & Industry (FPCCI), MQM’s deputy convener Dr Farooq Sattar said his party would never surrender before terrorists and would not boycott the general elections.

The MQM’s election campaign was being targeted by terrorists while some political parties in Punjab were openly organising election rallies, Dr Sattar said.

Asked about MQM’s alleged involvement in disruption in business activities during strikes and days of mourning called by the party in Karachi, Dr Sattar said why everyone talked about his party alone in this regard. “There are various other parties whose workers stage demonstrations in such situations which cause suspension of city’s routine business. Recently we observed a day of mourning when the death toll of our innocent workers in terrorist acts reached 65. We observed another yaum-i-saug when our workers’ death toll reached 77. In spite of all that we are thinking about new modes of protests that couldn’t disturb Karachi’s routine life,” he explained.

Dr Sattar dispelled the impression that MQM was involved in extortion from traders in Karachi or giving threats to them, saying that this impression might be right in 1990s when criminals were using the name of MQM for receiving extortion money from traders. “But now the MQM has its accountability cell for its workers,” he added.

The MQM leader said those arrested for extorting money over the past few years turned out to be activists of Tehreek-i-Taliban-Pakistan.

Talking about the incidents of terrorism, mainly in Karachi, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, he said such events were a question mark over the performance of the caretaker government and law enforcement agencies. “It is either weakness or inability on the part of the government and agencies. The quarters concerned should think that why terrorists are targeting only the MQM, ANP and PPP and why are they sparing some other parties.”



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