November 8, 2023
ISLAMABAD – In an unexpected turn of events, the PML-N and MQM announced on Tuesday that they would contest the upcoming general elections together.
The development comes days after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and President Arif Alvi agreed on February 8, 2024, as the date for polls — an announcement that has stirred activity in the camps of major political parties.
In the run-up to polls, the rivalry between the Nawaz-led party and the PPP has gained momentum as the latter alleged the PML-N has a hidden alliance with the current caretaker government.
The PPP also recently announced that it was open to forming an electoral alliance with the PTI to counter former ally PML-N.
The PML-N, the PPP and MQM were coalition partners in the previous government and had joined hands to remove PTI’s Imran Khan from power.
Today, an MQM delegation comprising Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Kamal met PML-N supremo Nawaz Sharif — who returned to Pakistan on Oct 21 — and his brother Shehbaz at the party’s Central Secretariat in Lahore.
In a joint statement issued after the meeting, the parties said they had agreed to adopt a joint strategy to put an end to the public’s woes and redirect the country towards the path of development.
The parties also decided to constitute a six-member committee to prepare a comprehensive charter, which they said would address the problems in Sindh and its urban areas. “It will present the final proposals for cooperation between the two parties to the leadership within 10 days,” the joint statement added.
In a media talk earlier, PML-N leader and former federal minister Saad Rafique, who also attended the meeting, said his party had held talks with the MQM during their time together in the PDM government.
“We signed a charter at that time and a larger understanding has been present […] a desire has been voiced by both parties of contesting elections together,” he stated.
Rafique said it was decided that the parties would hold consultations on several political, economic and legal policies. “Our doors will remain open for other political parties as well and opportunity would be given to discuss matters in the larger national interest,” he added.
Meanwhile, MQM’s Sattar said: “Just contesting the elections isn’t important, what happens after it is too.”
He highlighted the need for discussions on solving challenges such as unemployment, inflation and poverty. “It is clear that no political party alone is in the position to bring the nation out of the current crises. Hence, there is a need for a larger alliance,” Sattar added.
The MQM leader proposed a “charter for national interest”, which Sattar said would soon be prepared by his party and the PML-N. He added that the charter would also be shared with other political parties.
“Together, this is the only way to regain the trust of the public,” he said.
On the other hand, Mustafa Kamal said Karachi was key to bringing Pakistan out of the current economic crisis but maintained that it could only happen when the metropolis was given its due share.
PPP ‘welcomes’ move
Meanwhile, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari seemingly welcomed the PML-N and MQM’s decision to contest the polls together.
“To the opponents who are contesting elections and will stand against us, I say definitely. Come and stand, we welcome you, the best result will only come when there is democracy and competition with one another,” he said while speaking to party workers in Ghotki.
“We don’t say no to anyone. We always tell everyone to do their own politics and we have our own politics,” Zardari said.
PM reiterates support to ECP in conducting transparent polls
Separately, interim premier Anwaarul Haq Kakar said the government would provide support to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for conducting free, fair and transparent polls and would also ensure the provision of necessary resources.
He made the remarks while meeting with Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja, who called on the prime minister in Islamabad. During the meeting, the CEC briefed the premier on the commission’s preparation for conducting the general elections.
CEC Raja also invited Kakar to visit the ECP to review the preparations in this regard. He told the prime minister that the lists of polling stations and polling staff had been prepared.
He said the process of updating electoral lists was in the final phases and they would soon be dispatched to the respective districts.
Kakar assured the CEC of the caretaker government’s all-out support for the provision of funds and security for the general elections.