–Siddiqui refuses to return to cabinet, says PTI knew about MQM-P’s demands before forging alliance
–Defence Minister Khattak says govt needs time to address demands, doesn’t have an immediate fix
–MQM-P’s demand of reopening and reconstruction of party offices, recovery of missing persons a difficult task
–PTI leader says PML-Q’s demand of making Moonis a federal minister, appointment of specific bureaucrats in five districts unlikely to be fulfilled
KARACHI/ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) on Saturday held another round of talks to iron out differences and convince Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui to return to the federal cabinet, but the dialogue remained inconclusive owing to the demands put forth by the junior coalition partner.
The PTI delegation comprised senior party leader Jahangir Tareen, Federal Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Defence Pervez Khan Khattak, whereas the MQM-P was represented by senior leaders Amir Khan, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Kanwar Naveed Jamil, Khawaja Izharul Hasan, Aminul Haq and others.
The relations between the two parties strained after the MQM-P chief and then IT minister Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui quit the cabinet, citing reservations over the non-fulfillment of commitments made during formation of the cabinet last year.
Addressing a press conference following the meeting, Siddiqui, flanked by PTI leaders, said the talks were fruitful and claimed that “visible progress” was expected to take place in the next few days if the government responded positively to their demands.
The MQM-P’s demands are the formation of a university in Hyderabad; development budget for Hyderabad; implementation of a package of Rs162 billion for Karachi; and opening of MQM’s closed offices that were shut down after its founder Altaf Hussain’s infamous speech.
“The PTI knew about the problems faced by Sindh, particularly Karachi before we joined hands with them to form the federal government,” he said, adding that the MQM-P had given the ruling party “unconditional support” during its time of need.
The MQM-P convener said talks held with the PTI delegation were “encouraging” and added that the demands put forth by them were for the welfare of the people of Karachi and Sindh. He said these demands were not meant to benefit any individual or political party but the people in general.
“The PTI is a witness to the demands we put forward before them and even you [reporters] may have the main points [of the demands] in your hands,” he said.
Siddiqui also brought up his issues with the 18th Amendment during the presser and claimed that the legislation failed to provide any benefit to people of the province despite propagating the devolution of powers.
He said as per the amendment the power has yet to be devolved to the district level.
He said Sindh’s urban areas “are in the Intensive Care Unit” and those areas of the country should be taken care of by the government whose shopkeepers, traders and industrialists were “fulfilling their responsibilities” and generating revenue.
“Sindh’s urban areas need immediate relief,” he said.
‘NO MAGIC WAND’:
Speaking about the MQM-P demands, PTI leader Khattak said the government does not have a “magic wand” to resolve the problems faced by the allied party at once and that it would need time to fulfill the demands.
“We have invited them [MQM-P] to return to the federal cabinet. They are with us but MQM-P has to decide for themselves,” he said, adding that the talks were held in a cordial atmosphere.
“It’s ultimately up to the party to decide whether it would return to the coalition or not,” he added.
He rubbished the rumours that the MQM-P would break away with the PTI, saying: “We will spend five years together Insha’Allah.”
Khattak said when the PTI had taken reins of the country in 2018, Pakistan was facing numerous problems, but Prime Minister Imran Khan lead the country out of the economic crisis.
Though the Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) have seemingly mended fences with the ruling PTI, the MQM-P has continued to ramp up pressure on the government.
HERCULEAN TASK FOR PM IMRAN:
Meanwhile, a PTI source told Pakistan Today’s Mian Abrar in Islamabad that though talks with coalition partners have made some breakthrough, it would be a herculean task for Prime Minister Imran Khan to carry the coalition government forward.
“There are grim chances for a longtime coalition as the smaller parties are arm-twisting the PTI for more share in power,” the source added.
“Most of the demands made by the BNP-M and GDA are genuine and we are trying to address them, but some demands from the MQM-P and PML-Q cannot be fulfilled,” the source said.
He said that the PML-Q leadership was asking for another ministry and a slot for parliamentary secretary which could be accommodated. “However, the PML-Q wants the ministerial position for Chaudhry Moonis Elahi, which is unacceptable since he is yet to be cleared by NAB.”
“Prime Minister Imran Khan is willing to add a minister of state from PML-Q but the Chaudhrys are demanding the federal ministry for industries. They also want bureaucrats of their choice appointed in Gujrat, Chakwal, Mandi Bahauddin, Sargodha and Bahawalpur,” the source said, adding that conceding to this demand might upset PTI lawmakers elected from these five districts.
The PTI leader said that PML-Q is also asking for another ministry and an advisory position in Punjab with full powers.
The source said that the provision of development funds is another demand from allied parties but the prime minister wanted local governments to have autonomy in development projects.
“As far as MQM’s demands are concerned, the party wants the federal government to allocate huge development funds for Karachi and Hyderabad. Another lingering issue is that the MQM and BNP-M want the government to produce the missing persons in courts. Though there has been some development in the missing persons’ return, however the issue remains complicated due to various reasons,” he said.
As for the MQM-P’s demand of reopening its offices in Karachi and Hyderabad and reconstruction of the establishments demolished during anti-encroachment operations, the PTI government can’t give any assurances as this issue falls under the domain of the security agencies and the Sindh government, the source said.
He said that the PTI had already assured the BNP-M of making legislation on property and voting rights of the people of Gwadar, adding that regarding the party’s concerns on missing persons, the federal government had recovered 50 missing persons in the last two weeks and efforts were being made to produce the remaining persons in the next two weeks.