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PM asks minister not to offend partners

ISLAMABAD: After meeting a delegation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in what appears to be a damage-control move, rang up Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfikar Mirza on Sunday evening and asked him “to refrain from issuing any public statement” about coalition partners of PPP.

PM asks minister not to offend partnersOn its part, some members of the MQM went from the meeting straight to meet JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who quit the ruling coalition last week and whom the PPP is trying to woo back.

Although there was no official word from any side after the meeting between MQM Senator and Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Babar Ghouri and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, political observers believe that it was meant either to convey any message from the prime minister or to judge the seriousness of the JUI-F chief about his decision to stay out of the government.

When the MQM leaders were holding talks with the prime minister and the JUI-F leadership, their chief Altaf Hussain made telephone calls to PML-F chief Pir Pagara and Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to discuss what was officially being claimed the prevailing political situation.

Mr Hussain had already talked to leaders of other mainstream political parties, including Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Salim Saifullah Khan and Maulana Fazlur Rehman.

Federal Minister for Overseas Pakistanis Dr Farooq Sattar, who led the MQM delegation in the three-hour-long meeting with the prime minister, later told media that Mr Gilani had assured them that their “complaints and reservations” would be addressed both at the government as well as party level.

Dr Sattar said that they would meet President Asif Zardari on Monday to put their reservations before him as well.

The MQM delegation apprised the prime minister of their reservations regarding the coalition government affairs in Sindh, with particular reference to ‘provocative statements’ of provincial minister, Dr Zulfikar Mirza.

On Dec 15, the MQM had given a 10-day ultimatum to PPP to come out with an explanation on the “provocative speech” of Dr Zulfikar Mirza in which he had held the MQM responsible for target killings in Karachi.

The MQM wants the PPP leadership to explain whether the minister’s statement was his personal view or was it in line with the party’s policy.

The sources said that during the meeting, the prime minister and the PPP ministers sought support of the MQM on the controversial Reformed General Sales Tax (RGST) bill.

Political experts believe that after the JUI-F’s firm decision to stay out of the ruling coalition, the PPP is now desperate to keep the MQM within the government fold and will make every effort to satisfy them on issues relating to the coalition government in Sindh.

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