The ruling Pakistan People’s Party has decided to play down differences with its allies like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to save its coalition government at the centre at a time when party chief and President Asif Ali Zardari has become increasingly isolated.
The PPP’s stand has been influenced by the fact that the MQM has 25 seats in the National Assembly or lower house of parliament and could cause severe damage if it pulls out of the ruling coalition, party sources said.
The MQM has developed serious differences with the PPP on several issues, including the National Reconciliation Ordinance -- a controversial law that granted Zardari immunity in graft cases -- and recent elections held in the Northern Areas under a new self-governance package.
“What the MQM is doing is part of coalition politics.
It is not necessary that all coalition partners agree on all issues,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar told PTI.
“We believe that differences between the PPP and MQM will not rock the coalition. We have also decided not to react, no matter how far the MQM goes in criticising the government,” Babar said.
He said that differences between the two parties would not be allowed to reach the “point of no return“.
The MQM recently embarrassed the PPP by saying it would not support any move to get the NRO ratified by parliament.
MQM chief Altaf Hussain even advised Zardari to be prepared to make the “supreme sacrifice”, which some said was a hint that the President should quit and face graft charges in court.
The MQM also alleged that the PPP-led government rigged elections in the Northern Areas. The PPP won 12 of the 23 assembly seats that went to the polls and emerged the largest party while the MQM bagged only one seat.
Many in the PPP are of the view that their party has no option but to bear with the “onslaught from the MQM“.
“We are at the receiving end. The MQM is the kind of party that does not leave any opportunity to score points on any political issue,” said Samiullah Khan, general secretary of the Punjab chapter of the PPP.
Khan believed the MQM is building pressure on the PPP to force it to give up plans to abolish local government bodies in southern Sindh province.
“Actually, (the MQM) does not want to lose its grip over Karachi,” he said, adding the PPP would continue to go along with the MQM in line with its policy of reconciliation.
Senior MQM leader and Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Farooq Sattar said his party had a principled stance on all issues facing the country.
“If we have a difference of opinion on any issue, we will not only tell the PPP leadership about it but also express it publicly,” Sattar said. He made it clear that the MQM had “no personal issue” with the PPP.
“We believe that if we do not raise our voice against wrong, it will be detrimental for both parties and the country,” he said.