Pak`s ruling PPP in talks with dissident political parties

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and his aides held a series of meetings with dissident political parties, even as Muttahida Qaumi Movement has threatened to quit the alliance.

Islamabad: Scrambling to keep his fragile
government in power, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and
his aides held a series of meetings with dissident political
parties, even as Muttahida Qaumi Movement has threatened to
quit the alliance.

Leading the reconciliation moves, Zardari, who is
currently camping in Karachi, held talks with senior MQM
leader and Sindh Governor Ishrat-ul-Ebad Khan today.

Khan apprised Zardari of the MQM`s reservations that
led to its decision to get its ministers to resign.

Zardari reportedly assured Khan that issues raised
by the MQM would be addressed. He directed Sindh Chief
Minister Qaim Ali Shah to work on the MQM`s reservations.

He also said the Pakistan People`s Party wanted to
continue working with the MQM and some "key decisions" would
be made soon in this regard.

Zardari`s moves come as the PPP-led government faced
its worst crisis with MQM and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam quitting
their cabinet posts and JUI even quitting the coalition.

The MQM, which is largest party after the PPP in the
coalition with 25 lawmakers, warned it would quit the
government and sit in the opposition benches if the PPP did
not change its attitude.

The MQM pulled its two ministers out of the federal
cabinet on Monday, alleging that the PPP had not treated it
fairly.

London-based MQM chief Altaf Hussain, while addressing
party workers in Karachi on phone yesterday, said: "If the
government does not change its attitude for the better, then
we will sit on the opposition benches."

The MQM`s future decisions will depend upon the
attitude of the PPP, he said.

"We are not happy to quit the federal (cabinet). We
have taken this decision with a heavy heart. If the government
considers the MQM as its coalition partner, it must realise
that coalition partners are not treated like enemies and
strangers," said Hussain, who maintains a strong grip on the
party despite not having visited Pakistan for over a decade.

Endorsing the MQM coordination committee`s decision to
pull its ministers out of the cabinet while continuing to
remain in the PPP-led coalition, Hussain said he still wanted
the government to complete its five-year term.

"If the government changes its course of action and
works for the welfare of the people, the MQM will continue to
support it. The MQM cannot be browbeaten into accepting
government actions," he said. Hussain said his party had quit the federal cabinet
because of the PPP`s attitude, the "breach of promises" and
"inappropriate" behaviour of some PPP leaders.

"The PPP leaders, who are saying that they do not need
the MQM in Sindh, should adopt a resolution in this regard and
we will quit the provincial government immediately," he said,
referring to the PPP-led government in Sindh in which the MQM
is a key ally.

The MQM`s threats, which came in the wake of the
Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam`s decision to leave the ruling coalition,
have spurred senior PPP leaders to hold a series of meetings
aimed at shoring up the government at the centre and in Sindh.

In Islamabad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, the
PPP`s main trouble-shooter, and senior PPP leader Raza Rabbani
held separate meetings with JUI chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman in
a bid to woo him back to the coalition.

Rehman, who has spurned repeated invitations to return
to the alliance, left for Saudi Arabia later in the day to
perform Umrah.

Rehman caused further problems for the PPP yesterday
by demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza
Gilani, saying he had sabotaged President Zardari`s policy of
reconciliation.

The PPP`s current problems began after Gilani sacked a
minister belonging to the JUI for indiscipline and senior PPP
leader and Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza accused the MQM
of being behind ethnic killings in the financial hub of
Karachi.

The MQM, which plays a key role in propping up the
ruling coalition at the centre with its 25 parliamentarians,
has often threatened to quit the government as a ploy to
extract concessions from the PPP.

Observers have said it may be angling for key
ministries in exchange for rejoining the federal cabinet.

PTI