Though apprehensions would have been calmed by the presence of the MQM’s ministers during a federal cabinet meeting earlier in the day, Wednesday evening’s emergency meeting of the PPP’s largest coalition partner in terms of seats would have had a few pulses racing in the top offices of the country.
The situation, however, was controlled – at least for now – by a hectic effort by the Pakistan Peoples Party’s leadership to assuage the MQM – which included an assurance that the president had had a word with Sindh minister Zulfikar Mirza. Though staying put for now, the situation will be “reassessed” by the MQM post-Ashura.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) held a marathon meeting of its Rabita Committees in London and Karachi that was meant to discuss “all possible options” available to the party in the wake of the latest verbal attack launched on them by Sindh Minister Zulfikar Mirza. Mirza, aside from blaming Karachi’s business community of supporting ‘terrorist elements’, had on Monday also accused the MQM of spearheading target killings in the city.
The MQM’s meeting on Wednesday therefore had some fearing a pullout from the PPP-led coalition – a move that would have ended the coalition’s official numerical majority in the Parliament. ‘Official’, because the PPP has apparently secured the support of the PML-Q’s 50-plus seats.
However, the worst-case scenario never materialised. The MQM’s Raza Haider, who is the Sindh IT minister, holding a press conference after the marathon meeting announced that the MQM respected differences of opinion, and would not play the part of destabiliser for the government – particularly during the sensitive period of Muharram.
There was a soft ultimatum. He said that the MQM would give the PPP 10 days to distance itself from the accusations of the Sindh home minister. The expansive time period also indicated a relaxation in the situation. MQM spokesman, Sindh Youth Affairs Minister Faisal Subzwari, however, says that the party will reassess its options after Muharram.
Yet, the buildup to the Wednesday meeting was frantic.
High level contacts were made by the PPP in regards to the situation to assuage the MQM.
First, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah called on Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad at the Governor House. During the meeting the difference between the two parties was discussed, according to an official statement. Another official contact was made by the president’s crisis man, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who called the MQM’s central office in London