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Cancellation of talks from MQM side, surprized govt

05 September, 2015

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ISLAMABAD: Cancellation of talks by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement has taken the government by surprise, leaving it in dark about the party’s next move.

With both sides set to sign an agreement for the setting up of a grievances committee on Thursday evening to pave the way for party’s return to parliament, the MQM delegation led by Dr Farooq Sattar announced in the morning that it was pulling out of the talks and flew back to Karachi.

Finance Minister Ishaq Dar told reporters that “until Wednesday night everything was moving smoothly. Both sides agreed to meet on Thursday evening to decide the composition of the committee followed by a press conference”. But “to everybody’s surprise, the MQM leadership left for Karachi early morning”, he added.

According to the minister, even JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who was working as a mediator between the government and the MQM, was surprised by the development.

Answering a question, Mr Dar said there was a concurrence that the committee would comprise non-political personalities nominated by both sides. However, he was still hopeful of bringing the MQM back to the negotiating table.

JUI-F spokesman Jan Achakzai said that Maulana Fazl wasn’t scheduled to meet anyone from the two sides till Monday.

Many observers believe the MQM delegation’s sudden departure from Islamabad was linked to recent developments in London. A source close to the MQM said the party leadership in London had serious reservations over Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s recently concluded visit to the UK where he had held detailed meetings with his British counterpart and other important people.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday and briefed him on his UK visit, according to the Prime Minister Office.

It was a one-to-one meeting, but an interior ministry official told Newsmen that with the Rangers-led operation going on in Karachi, the civilian government was not in a position to go soft on investigations against MQM chief Altaf Hussain in London, though it’s ready to listen to the party’s concerns which related only to developments in Karachi.

The official said that everybody knew that the MQM was controlled from London and it would be wrong to even think ‘Dr Farooq Sattar and Co’, who had especially travelled to the federal capital for talks, would decide things on their own.

Conversely, for Dr Sattar it was government’s refusal to consider his party’s simple grievances which forced it to terminate negotiations. “Yes, we agreed to hold talks unconditionally only with Maulana Fazlur Rehman when he earlier came to the party headquarters in Karachi. But our visit to Islamabad certainly carried conditions.”

Dr Sattar also told mediamen that the proposed grievances committee was meant to deliberate on serious issues such as extra-judicial killings and disappearances of MQM workers, whereas the party’s simple demands that the prime minister play his role in lifting a ban on its political, welfare and charity-related activities and telecast of Altaf Hussain’s speeches had not been accepted.

The MQM is even willing to get the recorded speeches of Mr Hussain cleared, although addressing party workers is a basic right under Article 19 of the Constitution.

“If the prime minister, or for that matter Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, cannot even guarantee this much, then the MQM is very much on the right to say that the real power lies somewhere else, and not in the hands of the civilian government,” Dr Sattar said

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