Sindh government spokesperson Barrister Murtaza Wahab on Tuesday said that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan (MQM-P) should stand by its decision to withdraw a minister from the federal cabinet, urging the party not to “compromise for the sake of another ministry”.
“The federal government has failed to address Karachi’s concerns. I urge MQM to fight on behalf of Karachi and not compromise for the sake of another ministry.
“If we all rally and unite behind this cause, the federal government will be forced to transfer the Rs162 billion which was allocated under the development programme,” he said.
Addressing the media in Karachi on Tuesday, Wahab said that in his opinion, the MQM’s decision to give back a federal ministry was the result of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s offer to give the party ministries in Sindh in exchange for breaking its alliance with the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) in Centre.
“I urge the MQM to stand by their decision. They should stand with the people of Karachi. You are all aware of the promises Prime Minister Imran Khan made to the people of Karachi.
“However, not a single one of those promises has been fulfilled, whether it was funding development programmes, funding the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, funding projects in Hyderabad or funding hospital in Mithi.”
In a surprise move last week, MQM-P Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had resigned as the federal minister for information technology because he said the ruling PTI “did not fulfil its promises”. But Siddiqui insisted his party would continue to support the Prime Minister Imran Khan-led government.
MQM-P also clarified that its senator, Farogh Nasim, who is the federal minister for law, will continue to be part of the cabinet. The party did, however, claim that the government had not consulted it before giving Nasim the portfolio of law. Siddiqui went on to say that his party was promised one more ministry but despite repeated assurances, the PTI-led government did not fulfil its promise.
Senior MQM-P leader Faisal Subzwari had said that after Siddiqui’s press conference, Prime Minister Imran Khan had personally contacted the MQM-P convener and assured him that he would look into his party’s legitimate concerns.
A day after Siddiqui’s announcement, a PTI delegation led by Federal Minister for Planning, Development, Reforms and Special Initiatives Asad Umar also met with MQM-P members in Karachi. But it appeared that the deadlock between the two sides persisted after both Umar and Sidiqqui insisted that the meeting was pre-planned and that the latter was not retracting his resignation.
Siddiqui’s announcement came just weeks after PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s public offer that the PPP was ready to embrace the MQM-P as a coalition partner in Sindh provided it helped the opposition in bringing down the PTI-led federal government.
However in his presser, Siddiqui clarified that his decision to quit the federal cabinet had nothing to do with the “recent offer of ministries from a party”. Siddiqui insisted that MQM-P had supported the PTI government for strengthening the democratic system, but to date it had not seen any serious headway on even one of the many points of the MoU it had signed with PTI.
After the general elections in August 2018, PTI and the MQM-P had signed a nine-point memorandum of understanding (MoU) following which the latter joined the PTI-led coalition government in Centre and was also assigned two federal ministries – those of information technology and law.
The PTI does not enjoy a simple majority in the 342-strong National Assembly. For attaining the required number – 172 – for government formation it had to take the MQM-P and some other parties on board as its coalition partners.
The MQM-P has the largest number of MNAs compared to any other coalition partner of the PTI. According to the NA website, the PTI has 156 MNAs, seven of the MQM-P, five each of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q and the Balochistan Awami Party, four of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal, three of the Grand Democratic Alliance and one each of Shaikh Rashid’s Awami Muslim League and Jamhoori Watan Party together form the government.
The total strength of the PTI-led coalition in the lower house reached 182 and the number game suggests that the PTI government will not fall even if the MQM decides to quit the federal government. The MQM-P has been given two federal ministries in return for its support for Prime Minister Imran Khan-led set-up.