Saturday Jan 25 2020

PTI, MQM likely to make headway in reconciliation talks

Photo: File

ISLAMABAD: Though negotiations between a government delegation and an MQM-P team have yet to bear any visible fruit — especially on two out of a total of four main demands tabled by the latter — there is hope that the two will join hands again soon, The News has quoted sources as saying.

A three-member delegation from the MQM-P, comprising Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Amir Khan and Kunwar Naveed Jameel met the government's chief negotiator, Jahangir Khan Tareen, and key PTI leaders on Friday to discuss four major issues that have yet to be resolved. 

According to The News's sources, three of the four issues concern the re-opening of MQM's traditional offices in Karachi, the recovery of missing persons and the so-called 'Karachi package' — a set of financial and development measures meant to bypass the Sindh government and address the megacity's outstanding issues. 

Tareen and Defence Minister Pervaiz Khattak reportedly assured the MQM-P delegation that the federal government was ready to deliver the promised Rs162 billion Karachi uplift package but needed more time for the other matters. 

They said the re-opening of the offices of MQM-P is still a difficult proposition because the political government needs some kind of endorsement from security institutions, since the offices in question were used for terrorist activities and organising paralysing city-wide strikes, The News reported. 

"The government side informed the MQM-P delegation that various other organizations like the Sunni Tehreek and Pak Sarzameen Party are also not being allowed to set up or re-open their party offices in the port city,” the publication cited its sources as saying.

It is pertinent to mention here that a crackdown was launched against the MQM following the August 22 speech by ex-party supremo Altaf Hussain, after which the sector offices of the party were shut down. 

Sources said the MQM-P delegation has taken a firm stance over its claim of some 200 missing workers, at which the government team has repeated its stance that it will talk to the relevant authorities to address this issue. 

“The Pakistan Rangers, Sindh, had categorically stated in the past that instances of ‘willful disappearance’ of the activists should not be counted as ‘missing persons’ because, according to it [the Rangers], Altaf Hussain asked his core workers to go into hiding after the massive crackdown against the MQM in 2016,” The News reported.

As regards the Karachi package, the government is reportedly ready to provide the funds, but has made it clear that there must be some kind of undertaking that taxpayer money is going to be utilised properly. 

Apart from the construction of a federally-funded university in Hyderabad, there are approximately 18 projects included in the Karachi uplift package, including the widening of the Northern Bypass, an improvement in the Lyari Expressway project and a road project to link the Karachi Port Trust to Port Qasim.

According to sources, the MQM-P is of the view that the federal government will provide financial package under the main brackets, after which the local government will decide further allocations and sort out the modalities. However, the federal government believes that the money will go waste if this kind of procedure is adopted for Karachi’s development.

As far as the rejoining of the government is concerned, the government team has as of now failed to convince the MQM-P delegation, but sources expect the MQM-P to rejoin the federal government after the resolution of its basic issues. 

Tareen has reportedly informed Siddiqui that the federal government will not accept his resignation and will do everything to convince him to rejoin the federal cabinet.