The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQMP) on Sunday announced their ongoing engagements are focused on the potential reforms they wish to bring about if they form the next government after general elections.
Addressing a joint press conference after a PMLN delegation—comprising Ayaz Sadiq and Khawaja Saad Rafique—met with MQMP leaders in Karachi, both parties said they had agreed “in principle” to cooperate in the upcoming polls, adding talks on the extent of their cooperation were ongoing. “We have demanded that, similar to the federal and provincial governments, there should be legal cover for the local government system outlining every detail of its authority and mandate,” said MQMP Convenor Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. “Similarly, the implementation of NFC [award] should be made conditional with the implementation of PFC [award],” he said, referring to the National Finance Commission and Provincial Finance Commission, respectively.
“We believe, and we have conveyed this to our PMLN friends, that the local government system is a key component of democracy,” continued Siddiqi. “In urban Sindh, we have seen how those who have been unable to prove their mandate in half a century, all of a sudden have taken control of every single affair of the local government system. This is a joke with democracy and it must come to an end,” he added, referring to the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)’s majority in the local government of Sindh.
PMLN’s Rafique, meanwhile, stressed that the two parties’ talks on Sunday were largely focused on proposals for reforms if the two form a coalition after the elections. “We [PMLN and MQM] are holding dialogue to find out what constitutional changes are to be brought if government is formed,” he said. “We are not here to discuss distribution of tickets. We have principally decided to join hands for the polls and, for that, we will keep holding meetings and discussions. Two committees from each side would be formed soon to discuss all prospects of our engagement,” he added.
Apart from the MQMP, the PMLN leaders also met representatives of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUIF) during their visit to the Sindh capital. Additionally, they met senior leader Syed Khursheed Shah at his residence in a “courtesy call.”
The PMLN, in recent weeks, has expanded efforts to secure alliances in Sindh—notably with the MQMP, GDA, JUIF—in a bid to secure a foothold in the province it has traditionally failed to find much support. Sensing a potential challenge to its “stronghold,” the PPP has ramped up criticism of the PMLN, especially in the absence of the challenge posed to its by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).
Addressing a press conference after the PMLN-MQMP meeting, PPP leader Sharjeel Inam Memon accused the PMLN of benefiting from “rigging” in elections. “The current situation and political engagements hint at the same scenario. However, we are ready for any alliance and any opponent in Sindh and any part of the country,” he said, reiterating that the “next prime minister” would be from Sindh.
The PPP’s concerns have mounted amidst the party’s inability to tie up Punjab, which it had hoped to increase its standing in through politicians who have left the PTI following the May 9 riots. However, a majority of the defectors have joined the newly-formed Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP), stranding the PPP in largely the same position it had held ahead of the 2018 general elections, when it secured only 7 seats in the Punjab Assembly. Observers note PMLN leaders describing Sindh as a “key focus” for them in the next polls further boost the PPP’s apprehensions.
Ahead of the meeting with the MQMP, Sadiq and Rafique told media that they hoped to bring key stakeholders of Sindh “closer” for the upcoming polls. “We are not here to create any platform against anyone,” he said of perceptions regarding a looming anti-PPP alliance. “We just want a Sindh-specific multi-party alliance, which should work together on multiple agendas. We want to address issues of both urban and rural Sindh. It is not only about Karachi or urban Sindh, where things have been ruined but also about the problems of rural Sindh. There’s frustration in rural Sindh as well. We want to address that too,” he added.
Stressing that no single party or institution could improve the country at this juncture, the PMLN leader hoped the atmosphere after Feb. 8 would encourage talks between all political stakeholders. “Politicians talk [to each other] as elections draw near, and so we do it too,” he added.