Major setback for Pakistan government as MQM parts ways

Monday, December 27, 2010

ISLAMABAD - The coalition government in Pakistan has hit a major roadblock as a key ally, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), has decided to part ways, media reports said early Tuesday.

“The reservations of the party have not been addressed and we are forced to make a decision to go our own way,” MQM legislator Haider Abbas Rizvi told Samaa TV.

“In the first phase, our two federal ministers, Farooq Sattar and Babar Khan Ghori, will step down on Tuesday and offer their resignations to the prime minister”, he said.

The MQM had given a 10-day deadline to the government last week for clarification of a statement by Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, who had accused MQM of extortion and target-killing in Karachi.

An MQM delegation had called on President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to record their statements. They were assured of a favourable response but the party decided to go ahead with the resignations at the end of the deadline when nothing concrete emerged.

“We are not going to apply for opposition benches as yet and will wait and see before making the next move,” said MQM leader Wasay Jaleel.

“If things don’t improve, we may decide to leave the coalition altogether in the centre and the Sindh province,” he said.

Federal minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Khurshid Shah said the government wants to take all allies along and the ruling party would assess the situation before giving a formal reaction.

Zardari is believed to have given the task of playing an interlocutor to Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

“He is expected to reach Karachi shortly and establish contact with the MQM,” reports said.

The divided mandate in the national assembly had forced the PPP to form a coalition government with the MQM, the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) and the Awami National Party (ANP).

The JUI has already made an exit from the coalition, after one of their ministers was sacked on disciplinary grounds.

If the MQM also decides to ditch the government, the latter’s number game will be adversely affected and it will be difficult for Gilani to take a vote of confidence in parliament.

“The allies have kept a window open for return if the government mends its ways. However, the gulf between the ruling party and its allies is likely to widen in the coming days because the government has not shown any signs of retreating from its hostile stand,” political analyst Irfan Siddiqui told Geo TV.

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