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Spotlight: Will the waves created by Allama Qadri amount to anything?: Political scenario

PPP is having a bad time in the aftermath of the bye elections which it lost comprehensively to the Nawaz League. This was followed by a series of defections from the party to PML-N. This on top of having to defend an extremely poor governance record in areas controlled by it! As always the party looks anxiously to its Sub-Par-Bhari-Zardari leader, to pull something out of the hat, thinking out of the box!

Zardari surprise Sure enough something was sprung by him but it would be premature at this stage to read much into it: namely the decision to appoint Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood, cousin of ex-PM Gilani, as governor of Punjab in place of Latif Khosa sacked during the week. And thereby hangs a tale! How come? Well the report has emanated from a meeting between President Zardari and former Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani and Makhdoom Mehmood at the President House, in which Bilawal was also present. And just what else is Makhdoom Ahmed Mehmood? Well, he was before now a senior office bearer of Pir Pagara’s Functional Muslim League in charge of the party in Punjab and a prominent political figure of South Punjab – a crucial political area.

ONE THEORY If true, what does Zardari hope to achieve by this? There are two mutually contradictory theories making rounds. According to one, the move by Zardari has the unspoken blessing of Pir Pagara and Zardari hopes to bridge to some extent the gulf that has appeared and widened between PPP and PMLF, due among other reasons, to unequivocal opposition of the latter to the Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) passed by the Sindh Assembly which led to PMLF walking out of the PPP coalition. In fact in the impressive political rally at Hyderabad Pir Pagara appeared to have lined up the entire gamut of Sindh Nationalist parties on the anti-SPLGO platform. Despite serious reservations among its own leaders, PPP has nearly as much stake, willy-nilly, in implementing SPLGO as it would not like to lose MQM, a vital political partner, by going soft on or backing out from implementing the Ordinance.

ALTERNATE THEORY As the week ended, this theory appeared to have developed many holes. For one, on Friday Pir Pagara confirmed the change and said it was a PPP decision and that he has obtained Ahmed Mehmood’s resignation from his party. On Saturday it was learnt that the Pir had tried to persuade Ahmed Mehmood against the step but the latter was keen to fulfil his father’s desire, as he disclosed it, that he fill the governor slot of Punjab. For a second, it is difficult to imagine that the Pir would soften his stand on the SPLGO after championing opposition to it and risk losing support in his party’s base area. Under the circumstances, the theory appears to have some basis. Perhaps this is just as well for Mr Zardari since SPLGO was a difficult pill to swallow for most PPP leaders anyway. The move, for what it is worth, is also expected to somehow help the sagging fortunes of PPP in the looming elections in South Punjab. It will be interesting to see the tight rope walk PPP will have to tread between MQM and PMLF on this issue if it wants to escape seriously antagonising either. (However as the week ended there were fresh reports that Ahmed Mehmood’s appointment had full blessings of Pir Pagara after all. Will the true picture emerge shortly?)

AND WHAT ABOUT SINDH Another cause for worry for PPP is an apparent wind of change in Sindh spearheaded by a newly active Pir Pagara. PPP dissidents who had been biding their time and holding their tongue so far are reported to have decided to speak out against the current leadership and policies of PPP. Another serious matter for PPP is the defection from its ranks in Punjab to PML-N of a number of its stalwarts. Will the new governor be able to stem the tide remains to be seen though many are skeptical? In order to shore up PPP’s strength President Zardari is said to be considering, among other moves, a seats adjustment plan with MQM not only in Karachi but in other cities like Hyderabad and Sukkur where MQM has a sizable presence.

MQM’S DISCOMFITURE December is proving to be a bad month for MQM with more to come in the coming months. The party’s troubles with the Supreme Court started by alleged use of intemperate language by the party Supremo on 2 December in his telephonic address to a party gathering in Karachi in which he objected to the use of the word “monopoly” by a judge when dealing with the delimitation of constituencies in Karachi. Two weeks later on December 14 Altaf was asked by a Supreme Court Bench to appear before the Court in person on 7 January 13 and explain why he should not be charged for his “contemptuous assertions against the judiciary?”

LIMITING THE DAMAGE Although Altaf lost no time in taking steps to limit the damage following advice from well-wishers, from SCBA and apparently from MQM Senator Farough Naseem who appears to be handling the legal side of the matter for his party, further damage was caused by more virulent speeches by party stalwarts Farooq Sattar and (more specially) MNA Wasim Akhtar, the latter speaking on the floor of the National Assembly. The Supreme Court asked the Speaker of the National Assembly, Dr Fehmida Mirza, for a transcript of the speech which was promptly provided by the NA Secretariat reportedly including the remarks expunged by the Speaker as particularly objectionable! ET tu Brute! Party Chief Altaf is continuing his efforts to make friends. His phone calls to various Islamic scholars in Karachi and his overtures to Tahirul Qadri’s venture in Lahore are a manifestation of this. These moves are welcome though it is difficult to find any common ground between Allama Tahirul Qadri’s philosophy and MQM’s ideology.

LOCAL GOVERNMENT Yet another bother for MQM is the danger to the Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) which was passed after years of negotiations with the PPP leaders and against the wishes of many of them. This was accepted by PPP as the price to pay for keeping MQM allied, although PPP nevertheless managed to while away the entire period to the next elections keeping MQM at bay from enjoying fruit of the Ordinance. MQM expects the Ordinance in its present form to ensure MQM’s near total control of Karachi and Hyderabad. The danger that surfaced last week was the lining up behind a newly political Pir Pagara of the entire gamut of Sindh Nationalist parties against the SPLGO. The danger for MQM is that faced with its own newly precarious position in Punjab, PPP may waver in its support for the SPLGO in its present form.

DELIMITATION AND VOTERS’ LISTS Last but not the least, MQM’s ardent desire to have the next elections fought under the current delimitation was opposed by all stake holding parties including PPP thus isolating MQM on the issue. Likewise MQM wanted that the recently completed Voters’ lists be used in the general election but this was also opposed by all other parties involved. They pointed to numerous errors and absurdities in the Voters’ lists as they stood. The Sindh Election Commissioner under whom the current delimitation was finalized was replaced and ECP decided to embark on fresh delimitation over strong opposition by MQM and also decided to prepare fresh lists both in view of the errors pointed out and Supreme Court’s directives. Confirmation of large number of errors in the current lists in the fresh exercise which is to be carried out with the Army’s help would justify the ECP decision.

NAWAZ SHARIF’S MUSLIM LEAGUE The only major political party which appears to be riding high is PML-N. Recent victories in by-elections, swelling of its ranks by defecting PPP people, PPP’s troubles in Sindh and with its main ally MQM are all music to the party’s ears. Punjab’s governance though not something to be proud of is certainly better than that of other Provinces especially Sindh.

Persistent attacks on the party particularly its leadership by TIPs chief Imran Khan are a cause of some worry for the party since its votes may be dented in parts of the Province by PTI candidates. Imran Khan targets Nawaz Sharif much more virulently compared to his criticism of Zardari. However, for now the party leadership does not appear overly worried about the PTI factor. The party’s overtures to PMLF in Sindh appear to have run into some snags but the picture should be clear in a week or two during which President Zardari will be very active as well.


Wajid Naeemuddin, "Spotlight: Will the waves created by Allama Qadri amount to anything?: Political scenario," Business recorder. 2012-12-25.