Government loses majority in National Assembly as MQM-P jumps ship

— MQM-P joins opposition in larger ‘national interest’

— Khalid Maqbool asks nation to observe ‘Day of Prayers’ as common man’s wishes fulfilled

ISLAMABAD: Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) quit the ruling coalition on Wednesday and joined opposition benches after reaching a pact with opposition parties seeking to oust him “in the national interest”.

“Today is a day for prayers. Common people’s wishes have been fulfilled. I expect that this time we can [strive for] a democracy whose effects can reach the people of Pakistan,” party convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui told a press conference.

His press conference came hours after a top decision-making body of the pro-establishment party gave its approval to an agreement — outlining favours it’d get in return for its vote against the prime minister during the no-confidence motion — with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

The party also removed its ministers — Farogh Naseem and Syed Amin ul-Haque — from the federal cabinet.

In his resignation letter, Naseem wrote he was resigning under the direction of convener Khalid.

While Haque said he was “bound by my party’s decisions as a responsible worker”.

“In light of my party MQM-P’s decisions, I resign as federal minister for information technology and telecommunication. I request you (the prime minister) to accept this.”

OPPOSITION URGES PM TO STEP DOWN

The opposition parties finally managed to persuade the government’s coalition partner to go against the PM on the no-confidence motion, and now with the MQM-P’s support, the government has apparently lost its majority in the assembly.

The MQM-P came in the position to make or break the government after PML-Q decided to side with the government when the premier took resignation from Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and offered the same position to PML-Q leader Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi in exchange for party’s support on the no-trust motion against the premier.

Though the resignation has not yet been accepted, MQM-P’s move has left both PTI and PML-Q red-faced as they have lost three crucial wickets — Khan, Buzdar and his expected successor Elahi.

With MQM-P siding with the opposition, the opposition officially now has more than the required numbers to oust Khan’s government through the vote of no confidence even without the PTI’s roughly two dozen dissidents.

The decision was announced in a press conference of the joint opposition front and MQM-P leadership after both sides reached written agreements, assuring MQM-P that all their demands would be fulfilled.

The MQM-P has been asking the government and the opposition to answer its demands in writing, saying the party would side with whoever would come up with a better response as it has to go back to its voters and supporters.

The demands included the opening of the party’s offices, recovery of “missing” party workers, discarding of “fake” cases against party leadership and workers, among other things.

Sources said that the opposition leadership, especially PPP, put a blank paper before MQM-P and asked it to write down all its demands as they would all be accepted.

LATE-NIGHT MEETINGS

The unified opposition and the MQM-P created a stir with a late-night meeting in Islamabad reportedly to put the finishing touches on the deal.

The meeting of the coordination committee of the party, a member of the ruling coalition, to decide on the matter was held at 2:00 pm, the party tweeted in the wee hours of Wednesday.

Interestingly, while the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) seniors tried with all their might to prevail on the party to announce a decision there and then, the party — which has seven seats in the National Assembly — avoided making a definitive statement and instead announced it would make its decision public today.

The PDM delegation which initially called on the party leadership at the Parliament Lodges included Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) MPs Khawaja Asif and Ayaz Sadiq, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leaders Sherry Rehman and Naveed Qamar, and Balochistan National Party-Mengal (BNP-M) chief Akhtar Mengal.

Later, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and his son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, PDM president Maulana Fazl ur-Rehman and PML-N president Shehbaz Sharif also reached the venue at around 2:00 am.

The talks with MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and other leaders continued well into the early hours of Wednesday.

“The united opposition and MQM have reached an agreement. Rabta committee MQM [and] PPP CEC will ratify said agreement. We will then share details with the media in a press conference tomorrow,” Bilawal tweeted.

In a tweet apparently confirming the claim made by the PPP chairperson, MQM-P leader Faisal Sabzwari said the “arrangement has taken shape”.

While many press outlets, including Geo News, were quick to declare the MQM-P has switched sides, some channels quoted Siddiqui and former Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar as saying that “nothing conclusive has been reached”.

Citing sources privy to the meeting, media reported the participants of the meeting discussed clauses about a future agreement between the PPP and MQM-P involving administrative and local government issues in Sindh.

However, the draft agreement is not only with the PPP, but with the whole opposition, a source said, adding that Rehman and Sharif would ensure implementation of the agreement if it was approved by the coordination committee.

Meanwhile, Imran Khan tasked PTI leader Faisal Vawda to woo MQM-P. Reportedly, he called the former senator early Wednesday and asked him to immediately reach Islamabad for negotiations.

Vawda along with a government team will meet the MQM-P delegation at Parliament Lodges to get their support on the vote.

The motion seeking the ouster of Khan was submitted to the office of National Assembly Speaker Asad Qaiser on March 8. It accused him of mismanaging the economy and poor governance in the toughest challenge he has faced since taking power in 2018.

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