KARACHI: As PML-N engages Sindh-based political parties to become part of an electoral alliance in the run-up to the Feb 8 polls, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM-P) has sought legal cover for the local bodies in Sindh as well as a provincial finance commission for the disbursement of the National Finance Commission (NFC) award.
The meeting between the leaders of the two parties discussed “constitutional changes” planned to be brought if PML-N and its potential allies are voted to power in the upcoming polls. The demand for reforms was made at a media talk held after the meeting.
A two-member team of the PML-N comprising Ayaz Sadiq and Khawaja Saad Rafique landed in Karachi on Saturday on a two-day visit. It met the representatives of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) as well as the MQM at its headquarters in Bahadurabad.
Speaking to media alongside the PML-N leaders, MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said, “We have demanded that like federal and provincial governments, there should also be a cover for the local government system defining every detail of its authority and mandate. Similarly, the implementation of NFC [award] should be made conditional with the implementation of PFC [award],” he added.
Siddiqui seeks provincial finance commission for NFC award implementation; PML-N does not rule out ‘multi-party alliance’
According to Saad Rafique, consultations with the MQM-P were “focused on proposals for reforms after the polls”.
“We [PML-N and MQM] are holding dialogue to find out what constitutional changes are to be brought if [our] government is formed,” he said. “We are not here to discuss distribution of tickets. We have principally decided to join hands for the polls and for that, we will keep holding meetings and discussions. Two committees from each side would be formed soon to discuss all prospects of our engagement.”
At the MQM-P headquarters, the two sides focused on their terms of agreement for the upcoming polls.
Among other points, the MQM-P particularly focused on issues related to urban Sindh and reforms in the local government system.
“We believe and we have conveyed this to our PML-N friends that the local government system is a key component of democracy,” said Mr Siddiqi. “In urban Sindh, we have seen how those who have been unable to prove their mandate in half a century, all of a sudden have taken control of every single affair of the local government system. This is a joke with democracy and it must come to an end,” he added.
The two-member PML-N team comprising Saad Rafique and Ayaz Sadiq also held a meeting with senior PPP leader Syed Khursheed Shah at his residence. They said the engagement was a “courtesy call”.
‘Not here to create platform’
Before visiting the MQM-P headquarters, the PML-N leaders addressed the media at the Karachi Press Club to share their agenda. To a question, they said the party was in the process of bringing key stakeholders of Sindh “closer” for the upcoming polls.
“We are not here to create any platform against anyone,” replied Mr Rafique to a question about speculations of an anti-PPP alliance in Sindh. “We just want a Sindh-specific multi-party alliance [for polls] which should work together on multiple agendas. We want to address issues of both urban and rural Sindh. It is not only about Karachi or urban Sindh, where things have been ruined but also about the problems of rural Sindh. There’s frustration in rural Sindh as well. We want to address that too.”
Mr Sadiq called the initiative “still fluid” and said things would further shape up after more engagements and dialogue. “We are in contact with everyone. Whether it is GDA, JUI-F, or MQM-P,” he added.
“We can create and name a common electoral platform if needed,” said Mr Rafique, adding, “…I think there are more chances of seat adjustments. The parties want to contest polls on their electoral symbols. So things would get more clarity with time. Right now, one thing is very clear: we have to strive together for the national level challenges.”
PPP slams PML-N
The PPP, sensing the approaching challenge came up with a strong reaction to the emerging situation in Sindh.
Senior PPP leader Sharjeel Inam Memon at a hurriedly-called press conference levelled serious allegations against the PPP’s former ally.
“The history is a witness to the PML-N character and mainly during the elections days,” he said. “Whenever there’s rigging in the general elections, the PML-N has emerged as a major beneficiary of that. The current situation and political engagements hint at the same scenario. But we are ready for any alliance and any opponent in Sindh and any part of the country.
“Bring it on if you believe in democracy. But let me be very clear. The next PM of the country would be one with Sindh domicile,” he added.
Published in Dawn, November 13th, 2023