NATIONAL

Musharraf deal with MQM for a pliable govt.?

ISLAMABAD NOV. 10. In what is seen as a "deal" between the Musharraf regime and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) as part of the efforts to get a pliable government, the military government has announced lifting of ban on "no-go areas" in Karachi.

The announcement on the lifting of the ban and immediate rehabilitation of the "displaced families" came hours after the MQM chief, Altaf Hussain, issued a statement from his exile in London urging the Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, to convene a round table conference of all parties to end the political deadlock.

Mr. Hussain said in his statement that the country was passing through a critical and chaotic phase and for the preservation of solidarity and restoration of democratic order, all the political and religious parties should consider ways and means to overcome this crisis at once.

"President Musharraf should take a bold step by convening a round table conference of all political parties to bring an end to this deadlock, to which Muttahida Quami Movement would extend full cooperation and support,", Mr. Hussain said.

"It is strange that on the one hand the political leaders and the parties are criticizing the President's policies, while on the other hand these very leaders and parties are hobnobbing with the Kingmakers to have access to the power corridors abandoning their ideologies," he said.

Mr. Hussain said the need of the hour was to evolve a consensus for the restoration of durable democracy and to "save the country from falling into the abyss of disintegration".

The MQM's chief statement marks a major shift in the position of the party vis-a-vis the October 10 elections.

The party had accused the Musharraf regime of helping the alliance of religious parties win a number of seats in the National Assembly and had gone to the extent of demanding a fresh election under the United Nations supervision.

In his order on Friday night, Gen. Musharraf directed the Sindh government as well as the law enforcement agencies to ensure rehabilitation of 1,200 families that were displaced from the "no-go areas" of Karachi in the early 1990s.

Political observers here believe that Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians group is going to form government in Sindh with MQM as its coalition partner.

Lifting of the ban, allegedly under the occupation of the rival MQM group with the help of the paramilitary forces, has been one of the major demands of Mr. Hussain and his group.

The MQM had alleged that it lost at least four of the National Assembly seats in the just-concluded general election because its polling agents were not allowed to enter the "no go areas" in the port city.

Last week Mr. Hussain had surprised political observers by announcing that he intended to end his exile in London and return to Pakistan at the earliest. Mr. Hussain had left Karachi in 1992 after a major Army operation. He even has a British citizenship.

Though he has not visited Pakistan for over a decade, he continues to have a complete grip on his party.

The MQM is the number one political force in Karachi and number two in Sindh province.

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