All regional and national political parties have intensified their efforts to win the maximum number of seats in the next general election. The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which has been confined to its home province since the last election, will have to face the possible alliance of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Sarzameen Party (PSP) in Karachi and a coalition of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and other parties in other parts of Sindh.
Though the alliance of the MQM and the PSP was short-lived, yet they can join hands against the PPP before the election. There are still chances of the merger of the two parties under a new name. It is difficult for the MQM to continue its politics in the name of its founder. However, if it merges with the PSP once again, it will be hard for them to woo voters, who have traditionally voted for the MQM. In such a situation, the PPP and the PTI will have better chances of winning more seats from Karachi and Hyderabad. On the other hand, if the MQM and the PSP contest elections independently, the PPP and the PTI can win more seats in Karachi than in the last election.
Former President Pervez Musharraf, who has eyed an active role in national politics since his retirement, has announced a “grand alliance” of 23 political parties that will operate under the umbrella of the Pakistan Awami Itehad (PAI). Addressing a press conference via video link, he announced that he would head the alliance while Iqbal Dar was appointed its secretary general. The main office of the alliance was set up in Islamabad. He also denied rumours that he wanted to lead the MQM, claiming that it was ridiculous to think of a “national level” leader like him to lead a “minor, ethnic party”. “The party is merely half of what it used to be. I am concerned about the internal rifts of the party. I have no interest in replacing Farooq Sattar or Mustafa Kamal even if their parties are united,” he insisted.
The political parties that joined the PAI included the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), the Pakistan Awami Tehreek, Sunni Itehad Council, Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen, Pakistan Sunni Tehreek, Muslim Conference (Kashmir), PML-Junejo, PML-Council, PML-National, Awami League, Pak Muslim Alliance, Pakistan Mazdoor Ittehad, Conservative Party, Muhajir Ittehad Tehreek, Pakistan Insani Huqooq Party, Millat Party, Jamiat Ulma Pakistan (Niazi Group), Aam Log Party, Aam Admi Party, Pakistan Masawat Party, Pakistan Minority Party, Jamiat Mashaikh Pakistan, Social Justice Democratic Party.
However, several parties dissociated themselves from the alliance a day after the announcement of its formation. First, the Pakistan Awami Tehreek distanced itself from it. Then, Majlis-i-Wahdatul Muslimeen denied being part of it. MWM spokesman Allama Mukhtar Imami said his party had not yet decided to join any alliance. He said they were focused on the recovery of their missing workers. “Neither anyone has consulted us over an alliance nor any of our leaders attended meetings of any political or electoral alliance. The party has not approved participation in any alliance,” they said. Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) Chairman Sahibzada Hamid Raza also clarified that his party’s alliance was not meant for the election. He said he would start election politics from the platform of a grand alliance of Ahl-e-Sunnat parties.
The alliance of the MQM and the PSP also split, one day after its formation. Dejected by criticism over joining hands with the rival Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), MQM-Pakistan chief Dr. Farooq Sattar announced leaving the party and politics. He, however, took his decision back after party leaders and his mother persuaded him. Addressing a press conference at his residence, he said the decision to form an alliance was taken in consultation with other leaders of the party. “They should have come forward and said that they had been consulted,” he said, referring to statements of party leaders, who claimed they were not aware of any talks in the party. Citing PSP Chairman Mustafa Kamal’s statement that the talks on the alliance had been underway for six months, Sattar said he had kept the details secret but written them at length in a letter to the prime minister, the army chief, Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence DGs and the chief justice of Pakistan.
On the other hand, PSP Chairman Mustafa Kamal dropped a bombshell when he alleged the establishment had asked him to forge an alliance with the MQM on Farooq Sattar’s request. Addressing a press conference, he said, “Sattar and his team have been calling us with help from the establishment for the past eight months. It is not an 8-month-old plan. It started on August 22, 2016, when Farooq Sattar was made head of the MQM.” He also accused the MQM of still being close to the party’s founder, saying that they had not once said a word against Altaf Hussain throughout the drama. Kamal said it was his party that had convinced the establishment to release 70 missing Mohajir men. He also alleged that the MQM-P was formed at the Rangers headquarters “under the supervision of the then Rangers DG Maj-Gen. Bilal Akbar.
It forced the establishment to respond. Talking to the media, Sindh Rangers DG Maj-Gen. Muhammad Saeed said the establishment had nothing to do with the merger of the parties. “We just don’t want a clash between them. MQM and PSP leaders had meetings with the Rangers and law enforcement agencies, however, we have not dictated any organisational policy for the political landscape of the metropolis,” he clarified.
It is clear that the establishment is suspicious about the contact of the MQM with its founder. If more evidence emerges of its links with him, the party cannot be allowed to function independently. In this situation, it will have no option but to merge with the PSP, without any strings attached. Their merger may hit the efforts of the PPP which eyes more seats in the next election.