MQM-P gives PTI-led govt a jolt

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The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) on Sunday gave the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government in the Centre a jolt as Minister for Information Technology and Telecommunication Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui announced his decision to leave the federal cabinet over “unfulfilled promises”.

However, the MQM-P’s key leaders told The News that the party’s recent move was a part of pressurising the federal government to give it another ministry because, the party believes, Farogh Naseem, Minister for Law and Justice, has been solely working on the behalf of federal government and helping them as a competent lawyer, instead of working as a representative of the MQM-P in the federal cabinet.

The party has now also been demanding the federal government to include Aminul Haque and IqbalMuhammad Ali Khan, the MQM-P’s two lawmakers elected from Karachi, in the federal cabinet, and allocate them key ministries. Siddiqui, who is also the MQM-P’s Convener, said at a press conference that he was resigning from the ministry, but he clarified that despite all reservations, the MQM-P will support the coalition government without becoming part of the federal cabinet – a strategy that had already been adopted by Akhtar Mengal-led Balochistan National Party (BNP-M).

The MQM-P’s central leaders, including Aamir Khan, Kunwar Naveed Jamil, Faisal Sabzwari, Mayor Karachi Waseem Akhtar, Nasreen Jalil and Khawaja Izharul Hassan also accompanied Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui at the presser held at party’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad. Siddiqui said the MQM-P had supported the PTI not only in forming the government but also at every difficult stage, but the PTI did not fulfil most of the promises it made in the nine-point memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the formation of a new government in the Centre.

“The MQM-P’s Rabita Committee in a meeting on Friday reviewed the alliance with the PTI in detail and agreed to leave the ministry,” he said. “It was useless to have a ministry in the Centre when no one is interested in resolving the issues of Sindh’s urban centres, including Karachi and Hyderabad. We have waited for 16 months and did not see anything being done to fulfil the government’s promises of doing something for Karachi,” he said.

Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui also said the MQM-P was not satisfied with the results of the 2018 elections but despite it, the party supported the government to uphold the democratic norms. Referring indirectly to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) supremo Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s recent offer to MQM-P of ministries in Sindh in exchange for the party breaking off its alliance in the Centre with the ruling PTI, Siddiqui elucidated that the MQM-P had received an offer of ministries from ‘somewhere else’ but the announcement of resigning from the ministry had nothing to do with it.

Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui has not sent his resignation to the federal cabinet.

“A committee headed by federal minister Asad Umar will meet the MQM-P leaders tomorrow (Monday) and try to address their grievances,” she told Geo News, adding that “MQM is our coalition partner and will remain so.”

She emphasised that the government was fully aware of the problems being faced by the City of Lights and Prime Minister Imran Khan was committed to provision of facilities at par with other developed cities of the world. She added the Karachi was economic vein of Pakistan and the government could not ignore this city.

The process for implementation of Rs162 billion relief package, she noted, had been started already while the federal government had provided guarantee for Sindh to obtain loans internationally and resources to Sindh under NFC had been provided.

Separately, Prime Minister Imran Khan, according to informed sources, tasked Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and other party officials in Sindh to meet the MQM-P leaders. The prime minister is said to be in agreement with MQM-P’s concerns, deeming their grievances genuine and vowing that the promises made to them will be fulfilled.

The prime minister, as per sources, said that he was aware of Karachi’s importance as an economic hub and vowed not to ignore it.

The sources said when Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui announced his resignation, Imran Khan immediately contacted senior party members Asad Umar, Jehangir Tareen, Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak, Minister for Water Resources Faisal Vawda and Sindh Governor Imran Ismail.

The sources said the prime minister had entrusted senior party member Jehangir Tareen with the task to address the issues of MQM-P who then immediately made telephonic contact with Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui to hold detailed discussion with him in this regard.

“But later on an influential government official at the Prime Minister’s House showed some arrogant behaviour to Jehangir Tareen on some issue after which he halted his efforts to address the issues of the MQM-P,” the sources said.

After Jehangir Tareen’s stepping back, Asad Umar was given the task of heading government delegation that would hold talks today (Monday) with leadership of MQM-P in Karachi.

“Jehangir Khan Tareen and Pervaiz Khattak will present a plan to the MQM-P leadership for provision of funds to initiate new and complete ongoing development projects for uplift of Karachi,” the sources said.

Meanwhile, the sources claimed that Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is likely to visit central office of MQM-P in the coming days as local leaders of both the parties are in contact with one another and sorting out modalities in this respect.

“If the PPP and MQM-P move forward in their secret contacts then changes are expected in the Sindh cabinet in the coming weeks,” the sources said.

Another key ally of the federal government, BNP-M, that holds four seats in National Assembly, is likely to hold meeting of its core committee under the chairmanship of its chief Sardar Akhtar Mengal on January 19 in Karachi to review the efforts of the Imran Khan-led government regarding their six-point agenda.

Akhtar Mengal has already threatened that if Imran Khan failed to implement six-point agenda presented by his party then they would part ways with the PTI in the Centre.

The sources said the BNP-M can announce after the meeting that it would sit on the opposition benches as a protest against alleged insensitivity of the federal government regarding their six-point agenda.

Meanwhile, Imran Ismail telephoned MQM-P leaders Faisal Sabzwari and Izharul Hassan and assured that all genuine reservations raised by the MQM-P would be removed soon. “We will find solution of the MQM-P’s problems and hope that the PTI led government and the partners would go together for the betterment of the people of the areas,” he said.

He said the opposition should not be excited on the situation, because the MQM-P would remain part of government.

Faisal Vawda contacted the MQM-P leaders Siddiqui and Naseem separately on phone and assured them of resolution of all issues through consultation.

Meanwhile, the PML-N and PPP supported the MQM-P’s decision, saying the Karachi-based party should break ties with the PTI for its inability to fulfil promises.

The PML-N Punjab President Rana Sanaullah cautioned the MQM-P, saying it shouldn’t go back to the PTI government as the government would take U-turn on MQM-P demands again.

The leader Nafisa Shah said that it is time to see to what extent MQM-P is able to fulfil their promises. She said Bilawal wants the MQM-P to take care of their voters.

Provincial Minister of Sindh for Local Government and PPP leader Saeed Ghani welcomed Siddiqui’s decision and said that the PTI government did not only make false promises with the general public, but they also deceived their own coalition partners.