KARACHI / ISLAMABAD: A timely intervention by President Asif Ali Zardari, who summoned Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad to Islamabad on Sunday evening after the coordination committee of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement decided to withdraw support from the beleaguered government and ask the governor to quit his post.
Sources in the MQM told Dawn that the meeting between President Zardari and Governor Ibad decided that the authorities would take stern and impartial action against killers of the party’s workers and citizens.
MQM leader Mustafa Azizabadi said the governor had taken back his resignation on the assurances given by Interior Minister Rehman Malik and President Zardari.
He said Mr Malik would visit the MQM headquarters in Karachi on Monday.
“We will carefully watch every action the government takes to curb terrorism and eliminate the land and drug mafia,” another MQM leader said.
“The decision (to quit the coalition and the office of the Sindh governor) has been taken… if the promises are not fulfilled then we will part ways with the PPP government at any time.”
Earlier on Sunday, the MQM coordination committee held a closed-door meeting simultaneously in Karachi and London and decided to withdraw its governor as well as ministers from the federal and provincial cabinets in protest against the authorities’ failure to provide protection to people.
The MQM leader said that the decision was unanimous. The meeting expressed serious reservations over the killing of MQM workers and innocent citizens and held the Awami National Party and the Peoples’ Amn Committee responsible for the killings.The sources said the London-based leadership of the MQM contacted Governor Ibad and asked him to inform the president and the prime minister that the party was going to quit the governorship and the ministries.
They said the MQM leadership considered various options, but the members unanimously held that in the prevailing circumstances there was no use to occupy the office of the governor or to continue to be part of the Pakistan People’s Party-led coalition government.
Sources close to the Governor’s House said Dr Ibad called Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and President Zardari and conveyed to them MQM’s concerns that the provincial government was abetting criminals who were mercilessly killing people in the city.
They said the president asked the governor to immediately come to Islamabad when the latter informed him that he had been asked by the top MQM leadership to resign and he was not willing to hold the office anymore because some elements within the government were patronising criminals involved in recent incidents of violence.
In the meantime, Mr Malik contacted MQM’s international secretariat in London to stop the leadership from taking any extreme decision.
An MQM leader said Mr Malik talked to the London-based members of the coordination committee three times and then spoke to party chief Altaf Hussain and tried to persuade them not to part ways with the government.
He said the interior minister’s contacts and subsequent assurances bore positive results and the MQM leadership decided not to quit the government ‘for the time being’. “This was all done before the president’s meeting with the governor,” he added.
A press release issued from the presidency said the meeting centred on deteriorating law and order situation in Karachi with particular reference to killings in the city over the past two days.
The quiet ending of the meeting quashed rumours about an imminent fall of the government that were doing the round the entire day.
Sources in the presidency said the president took serious notice of increasing incidents of target killings in Karachi and urged the MQM and Awami National Party, another coalition partner, to avoid issuing provocative statements against each other and try to resolve their differences through dialogue.
“Please avoid finger pointing against each other because this would further aggravate the situation,” he was quoted as saying.
It is expected that a delegation of the ANP will meet the president soon to apprise him of their point of view on the issue of target killings.
“The president condemned the target killings in Karachi and asked the governor to convey his condolences to the bereaved families. The president ordered an inquiry into these incidents and said the perpetrators of the crime would be brought to justice, no matter what their position,” presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
It has been observed that being the head of the state and the ruling coalition, the president has so far failed to end the differences between the two coalition partners which have turned the country’s commercial hub into a battlefield.The sources said the governor expressed dissatisfaction over acquittal of accused in terrorism cases by courts.
The president was of the view that the two parties should make sincere efforts for restoring normalcy in Karachi and give exemplary punishment to those involved in target killings, no matter which party they belonged to and what position they held.
KARSAZ ANNIVERSARY: Meanwhile, on the eve of the third anniversary of the Karsaz tragedy on Oct 18, President Zardari, who is PPP’s co-chairman, paid glowing tribute to the martyrs and said that the incident was a reminder that the central battle in Pakistan was between the forces of moderation and democracy on one side and those of extremism and religious bigotry on the other.
“Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was the symbol of resistance against militancy and bigotry and the attack on her on this day was indeed an attack on all forces of moderation,” he said.“We must win this battle if we are to survive as a modern, moderate and democratic nation where ballot and not bullet will determine the direction we take,” he said in his message on the occasion.
“Those who laid down their lives on this day three years ago are the heroes and heroines of the battle against extremism. They have lit the path with their blood for future generations to traverse in the fight against obscurantism, militancy and extremism. They did not die in vain; they gave up their lives so we lived in freedom, dignity and hope,” the president said. “The martyrs of Karsaz are the strength of the nation and we salute their courage and loyalty,” he said. “Even in a distant age and clime they will serve as inspirational models and motivate people to fight the bigot and the militant to the finish,” he said.
Nearly 200 PPP workers were killed in Karachi when terrorists struck a convoy welcoming Ms Bhutto on her return to Pakistan after almost a decade in exile.