An easy relation that kept everyone guessing

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The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s decision to leave the coalition governments at the centre and Sindh is not a surprise for the observers, closely watching its political dealing, described by many as blackmailing. Though the PPP government is in a smooth position as the treasury benches still have clear majority in both the houses of the parliament but the move by the MQM has left the PML-Q in a better bargaining position as any negative decision by the Chaudhrys of Gujrat may disturb the equation. The ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) relationship with the MQM as not been as pleasant as enjoyed with other political allies because of the continued summersaults taken time and again by the second-tier leadership, also known as the Rabita Committee, of the MQM. After the 2008 general elections, the MQM along with other political parties extended vote of confidence to the PPP-nominated Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on March 24, 2008.
The first instance of serious differences between the two allies emerged when the PPP started reshuffling the top bureaucracy appointed by Musharraf in April 2008 and named Shoaib Suddle as the chief of Sindh Police. The MQM resisted initially and raised serious objections publicly against Suddle, accusing him of committing extra-judicial killings in Karachi operation against the MQM workers in 1990s. Though, the leaders of both the parties sorted out issues for the time being, but it laid the foundation of distrust and paranoia that constantly haunted the coalition throughout the period. The differences propped up again when the PPP government abolished the local bodies system and replaced it with administrators owing to some political compulsions. The MQM, on the other hand, was in favour of retaining the structure as the system had provided the Karachi-based party an opportunity to accommodate a large number of its workers to enhance the political influence besides further strengthening the political clout in the urban Sindh. The mutual differences were analogous to a smouldering fire that would erupt abruptly to ruin every thing around. The issues like re-demarcations of constituencies and targeted-killings also played a part in tense relationship.
The MQM had been wary of the PPP’s intention, saying redrawing the constituencies, also called as delimitation process, was a bid to reduce the MQM’s majority to a minority in certain areas. On the other hand, the PPP leaders had been accusing the MQM of being involved in the killings in Karachi. But the differences were somehow shelved repeatedly to save the coalition. The MQM also opposed the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) when the federal government was trying desperately to legalise corrupt practices committed by the party leaders by making it a part of the constitution. The ordinance, issued by General Musharraf, had withdrawn corruption cases against various PPP leaders including President Asif Ali Zardari.
Altaf Hussain, the MQM supremo, had maintained that the NRO, being a black law based on political expediency and vested interests, could not be made a part of the constitution. The NRO saga was reflective of the fact that uneasy collation was having infighting on a host of issues.
In the meantime, Altaf started raising public issues for the first time to counter the PPP moves and said the constitution must be saved from the NRO as it was tantamount to making the corruption legal in the country. The political wrangling surfaced again when Sindh Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza, a close confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, accused the MQM of being involved in the targeted killings. The MQM while protesting against the statement called for his removal.
The Rabita Committee gave a 10-day deadline to the government to resolve the issue and party delegations also met the president and the prime minister but to no avail. Initially it appeared that the coalition would survive. But the MQM resigned from the federal cabinet on December 27, 2010, but said it would sit on the treasury benches and support the government. The decision was reversed by the Rabita committee only after five days and the party decided to sit on the opposition benches, marking the complete departure of the MQM from the government. But it joined the government again last month as the PPP faced the immediate task of ensuring the passage of budget and it somehow managed to make the MQM accommodating.