PML-N’s Saad Rafique meets with MQM-P leadership in Karachi

After the meeting, the PML-N declared that both parties had decided to form an electoral alliance in light of an understanding reached in April last year when the MQM had joined the Shehbaz-led coalition government.


PML-N and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan leaders talk to the media in Karachi on November 12. PHOTO: DAWN

November 13, 2023

ISLAMABAD – PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique said on Sunday that there had been no talks as yet on seat adjustment with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan.

Rafique made the comments after a PML-N delegation, including Ayaz Sadiq and Bashir Memon, called on the MQM-P leadership at its office in Karachi’s Bahadurabad.

His remarks come after, in a surprising turn of developments, the “ele­c­toral alliance” announced by the PML-N and MQM-P on Tuesday appeared to have been downgraded to “seat adjustments”.

On Tuesday, a three-member MQM-P delegation comprising Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Farooq Sattar, and Mustafa Kamal called on the Sharif brothers — Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif — in Model Town Lahore.

After the meeting, the PML-N declared that both parties had decided to form an electoral alliance in light of an understanding reached in April last year when the MQM had joined the Shehbaz-led coalition government.

Late in the night, however, senior MQM-P leader and former federal minister Aminul Haque clarified that it was not an electoral alliance as both parties would contest the election on their respective election symbol.

Subsequently, MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had stated that the party had developed a “consensus” on issues facing the country in a recent meeting with the PML-N and not an electoral alliance.

At the outset of today’s press conference in Karachi, Siddiqui welcomed the PML-N delegation. He expressed the hope that relations between the two parties would prove to be an “important step” for Pakistan’s democracy and security.

Siddiqui then invited Rafique to speak. Thanking the MQM-P leadership for welcoming the PML-N leadership, Rafique said, “Both the parties think that democracy in Pakistan needs to be transformed into the democracy of the common man. The time has come to decide formulas for the equal distribution of resources and to give it legal and Constitutional protection.”

He said that this matter did not just concern Karachi but all cities in the country. “So this partnership between PML-N and MQM will benefit not just Karachi but all of Pakistan,” he said.

Rafique said that the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) award should also be “made a reality” and implemented. He said that the equal distribution of resources should now move from the provinces to local governments.

He regretted the lack of implementation of the local government system, adding that mainstream political parties would have to play a role in this regard in the future. He said that Pakistan was facing political and economic crises.

The PML-N leader said political parties should sit down together and do “electoral adjustments” ahead of polls where possible. He said that where this was not possible, then the government and opposition formed after the elections should work on the Charter of Democracy and agree on a Charter of Economy.

“So two teams are working, of MQM and PML-N [and] the names of which will be announced in a few days, so that we can talk on legal and constitutional reforms needed in the interest of the common man through the next Parliament that will be formed,” he said.

Rafique further said, “There were no talks between us on seat adjustments. In the past, talks started with the topic of seat adjustments.

“Now, we have all travelled so far in our political journey that seat adjustment will keep happening but the primary work is to move forward towards reforms,” he said.

Rafique said talks were also held with other stakeholders in Sindh, including the Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan, adding that the PML-N wished to create an alliance in Sindh that would represent national wishes and prevent the “neglect” shown to Karachi and other cities of the province.

To achieve this, Rafique said it was necessary that rigging does not take place and votes cast translate into results. “So this is not just the responsibility of PML-N and the MQM. It is the responsibility of all state institutions and all political powers,” he said.

Rafique further said that the “new manifesto” being prepared by the PML-N, which would also be presented to the MQM-P, would also talk about judicial reforms for the appointment of judges as well as bureaucratic reforms.

“Then there is a chapter on accountability. We don’t recognise the NAB (National Accountability Bureau) law. If there is a need for an institution of accountability, then it needs to be free of pressure and [free of] political engineering and arm-twisting,” he said.

“So there is a lot of work to be done [and] there is little time. Our own manifestos are being prepared and we will also try to come before the public with a common political agenda,” he said.

Questioned about the partnership between the two parties and if it would successfully continue, Rafique said it would not “walk but run”.

Meanwhile, Siddiqui said Pakistan was subject to “every kind of crisis” at the moment. But he said the actual crisis afflicting the country had more to do with “intentions”.

He said the Constitution should be strengthened for the people’s benefit and to protect their rights instead of favouring those in power.

Stressing that local governments should be empowered to provide the fruits of democracy to the common man, Siddiqui demanded that the third tier of governance — including district, city and local governments — should be provided with the same legal and constitutional cover as federal and provincial governments.

He said there should be caretaker mayors and district chairmen to ensure that polls are conducted in 90 days. Siddiqui called on all stakeholders to have the third tier of government intact as a condition for holding general elections.

Siddiqui further said that the roles, resources and departments under the control of the third tier of government should be constitutionally enshrined. Lastly, the MQM-P convener said the National Finance Commission Award should be linked to the PFC award and both should be calculated through the same method and released simultaneously.

Earlier in the day, Rafique had said the purpose of today’s meeting was to advance last week’s talks on constitutional and legal reforms, particularly those related to Karachi’s degradation and local governments.

Speaking to the media at the Karachi Press Club, Rafique was also asked about the recent back-and-forth between the PML-N and the PPP. To this, he said that the current focus should be on political manifestos and how to rid the country of the issues it is facing.

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