KARACHI: Immediately after the Muttahida Qaumi Movement announced its decision to withdraw its parliamentary support for the politically besieged Pakistan People’s Party government at the centre, its London-based chief Altaf Hussain called PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, PML-F chief Pir Pagara and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam leader Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Hyderi to brief them on his party’s decision and “discuss the overall political situation”.
The MQM’s decision was taken at an emergency meeting of its coordination committee which said that the party was no more in a position to support the federal government in the wake of the massive increase in the prices of petroleum products.
The meeting held simultaneously in London and Karachi decided that MQM legislators would sit on opposition benches in the National Assembly and Senate.
However, the committee took no decision about the stance it would take in the event of a no-confidence motion moved against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani who lost majority in parliament.
The MQM appears to be not interested in coming up with such a motion in the National Assembly. It strongly believes that the PML-N will indirectly support Mr Gilani and will not table a no-confidence motion.
According to the coordination committee’s decision, MQM’s 25 MNAs and six senators will apply to the speaker of the National Assembly and the Senate chairman to allot them seats on the opposition benches.
MQM leader Faisal Subzwari told Dawn that the matter of no-confidence motion had not come under discussion at Sunday’s meeting.
A decision about quitting the Sindh government would be taken later, he added. A week ago, the MQM quit the federal cabinet by sending resignations of its two ministers.
But the party said at that time that it would continue to sit on the treasury benches and support the government. The resignation of its ministers has not yet been accepted.
Well-placed sources in the MQM said its leadership was perturbed over the way the PPP was dealing with the party after it decided to quit the government at the centre.
They said that eyebrows had been raised over the role being played by Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad and some leaders of the MQM believed that he should not be part of any negotiations with the PPP.
They said the MQM had not demanded the deferment of a bill for reviving the commissionerate system in Sindh or appointment of a new district coordination officer in Karachi.
“Does the PPP leadership think that our two federal ministers had resigned just for the postponement of the bill or appointment of Mohammad Hussain Syed as the Karachi DCO?” an MQM leader asked.
“The PPP knows everything we want and just because of this we had not set up any committee to hold negotiations with them. But it appears that they are playing with us.”
A statement issued after the coordination committee meeting said the fresh increase in prices of POL products was unjust and tantamount to cruelty.
“While an increase in oil prices in the international market is being cited as a reason for increasing POL prices, no effort is being made to improve the economic condition of the country by bringing the agricultural income of feudal lords and large estates under the tax net and plugging unbridled corruption.
“Rich people have been virtually exempted from paying tax and the salaried class is facing an ever increasing tax burden,” it said.
“The MQM is a political party that takes important decisions keeping in view the aspirations of the people. Its representatives feel that they are accountable before the public as they live in their midst.
“Pressure is mounting on the elected representatives because of the increase in POL prices.
“In this situation, the MQM considers it a travesty to sit on the treasury benches and hence we will sit on the opposition benches in the Senate and National Assembly.
“Nonetheless we will continue to support positive steps of the government and openly oppose all the measures that go against the interest of the people.”
The meeting demanded an immediate withdrawal of the increase in prices of petroleum products. “Unjust taxation should be stopped forthwith and the agricultural income of feudal lords should be taxed and corruption stopped.”