Posts Tagged ‘ Muttahida Quami Movement ’

Early Elections Seen as Possible Solution to Pakistan’s Political Crisis

By Saeed Shah for The Miami Herald

Pakistan’s political crisis, which pits its president against determined opponents in foes in Parliament, the Supreme Court and the military, is likely to reach fever pitch on Monday with a confidence vote scheduled in Parliament and hearings scheduled in two critical court cases.

The crisis is so intense that President Asif Zardari’s administration may be willing to call elections for as soon as October, according to members of his ruling coalition and its advisers. But that may not be enough to mollify the opposition, which wants earlier elections, or the country’s powerful military establishment, which is believed to be trying to force a so-called “soft coup,” under which Zardari, a critic of the military’s traditional dominance of Pakistan, would be forced out by Parliament or the courts.

The threat of an outright coup also hangs over the crisis, if the politicians cannot find a way out or the court proceedings reach absolute stalemate.

Whether the government can reach agreement with opposition leader Nawaz Sharif is unclear. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party doesn’t want to announce elections until after voting in March for a new Senate, which the PPP is widely expected to win. But Sharif would like the new elections to be in the summer, perhaps June, which would require an earlier announcement.

“There is no other option for the government to come out of the current crisis without elections,” said an adviser to the PPP leadership, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, as did the other coalition members. “It is in the interests of the PPP to reach an agreement with Nawaz.”

The PPP rules with three major coalition partners, but the alliance is looking shaky. Two of the parties, the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, have distanced themselves somewhat from the government.

A senior member of the coalition said the parties so far have agreed internally only to a general election to be held in October. That would be just a few months before the February 2013 date when Parliament would complete its five-year term and elections would have to be held anyway.

An early election should also placate the courts and the military. A supposedly neutral caretaker government would have to be installed to oversee a three-month electioneering period.

Another coalition member said: “It is 100 percent certain that there will be elections in 2012. The only solution is elections. It doesn’t matter whether they are held in June or October.”

Zardari’s coalition itself brought Monday’s confidence vote resolution to Parliament, cleverly wording it so that it asks for support not for the prime minister or even the government, but for democracy. That makes it difficult to oppose.

But the PPP’s troubles in Parliament are only one of the fronts in its battle for survival. The courts and the military are both maneuvering against the party’s leaders, with two explosive cases coming up for hearings Monday.

The first stems from a 2007 decree by President Pervez Musharraf that granted immunity from prosecution to Zardari and other exiled PPP politicians in an effort to persuade them to return to Pakistan to participate in elections that Musharraf was being pressured by the United States to hold.

The Supreme Court later ruled, however, that the decree was illegal and demanded that the government reopen corruption charges against Zardari stemming from the time when his wife, the assassinated PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, was prime minister.

The government declined, however, and now the court has summoned the government to explain its actions. The court could declare Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani in contempt of court, which would in effect remove him from office.

The other case involves the the scandal in which a judicial commission is investigating allegations that Husain Haqqani, a close Zardari adviser and former ambassador to the U.S., wrote a memo that was passed to U.S. officials in May. That memo offered to replace the Pakistan military’s top officials in return for U.S. support should the military attempt to push Zardari aside.

Haqqani, who was forced to resign, says he had nothing to do with the memo, which the military has said amounted to treason.

The judicial commission may take testimony this week from an American businessman, and occasional news commentator, Mansoor Ijaz, who claimed that he had delivered the memo to U.S. officials, in a column that appeared in the British newspaper the Financial Times in October. Ijaz has said he will show up as a witness, though he apparently has yet to receive a visa to enter Pakistan.

Sectarianism Infects Hospital Wards

As Reported by IrinNews.org

Religious, political and ethnic divisions have claimed hundreds of lives in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city, but also influence the chances of survival for the injured.

A doctor in the emergency ward of Civil Hospital Karachi, one of the city’s largest public hospitals, told IRIN: “After a terrorism incident, we are under intense pressure. Earlier, we had the activists of various political parties threatening us in the emergency department to not treat the patients of their rival groups. They use all sorts of delay tactics, be it blocking the entrance to pounding on the doors and abusing the staff. Now, we also get calls [from the militants].”

The doctor, who asked not to be identified, added: “One ethnic-based party is so strong that it makes sure that the duty doctors are unable to carry out their work once the injured start arriving. We have doctors and other staff who are from that party within the premises. Time and again we have been told not to treat Pushtun injured, who are very easy to identify due to their language and beards. We already face a shortage of staff, medicines and medical equipment… It’s just a mess here. [But] all professionalism and ethics aside, how can you expect me to save someone when my life is in danger?”

According to a Human Rights Commission of Pakistan report released in July, 260 people have been killed in targeted killings since January 2010. The number continues to rise with 50 people killed so far in the latest wave of violence following a shooting rampage in Shershah Market on 19 October.

Turf war

The nub of the problem in Karachi is the ongoing turf war between the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP) for control of the coastal city. Both parties draw support from rival ethnic groups; the MQM’s vote bank is among largely Urdu speakers who migrated to Karachi after partition from India in 1947, while the ANP mainly represents Pushtuns.

Habib ur Rehman Soomro, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association, acknowledged that sectarianism was rife in the health services. “I will not deny this occurrence. I live in this city and I know how things work. Refusing and delaying treatment in cases of emergency, especially after incidents of ethnic violence and terrorism, is a crime but all this is happening… Now the situation is such that all public hospitals in the city have the offices of MQM, PPP [the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party] and if it’s a Pashtun-dominated area, ANP.”

Shams Khan was injured on 3 August in the violence that erupted after the killing of MQM leader Raza Haider, which claimed 45 lives.

“I was shot in the leg by these boys near Lalo Khait. I made my way to Abassi Shaheed Hospital but they refused to treat me. I was practically thrown out of the facility by my beard as one of the doctors called me a Taliban. Bleeding, I made my way to JPMC [Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre]. I lost so much blood by the time the doctors attended to me. I now limp around and need a crutch to walk. The doctor told me that had I been treated earlier, it would not have happened.”

Soomro told IRIN that doctors were under constant threat. “Since the 1990s, there have been plenty of incidents of targeted killings of doctors killed on the basis of sect and ethnicity. Over 85 doctors have been murdered. First it was the Shia-Sunni issue, then the Pushtun-Mohajir issue, now it’s about sects. It’s just insane. Political affiliations need to be removed.”

A doctor at the JPMC, who asked not to be named, said: “We have seen days where doctors were beaten by angry political activists as well as the family members of the victims after a bomb blast… This cycle of madness will not end.”

Pakistanis for Peace Editor’s NoteWe are unsure which is sadder, the inability of doctors in Pakistan’s biggest city to save lives without threat and or intimidation and violence against them, or that the very people giving these threats to the doctors are in fact linked to members of the two ruling political parties, who have been charged with being “leaders” of the country.

Suspected Political Violence Kills 25 in Pakistan

By Ashraf Khan for the Associated Press

KARACHI, Pakistan – Gunmen have killed at least 25 people in Karachi in the past 24 hours, raising tensions in Pakistan’s largest city as voters cast ballots Sunday to replace a provincial lawmaker murdered in August.

Police said they were still investigating the motives behind the shootings, but many so-called “target killings” in Karachi have been linked to gangs controlled by the city’s main political parties, which have been feuding for much of the last 20 years.

“We cannot say whether all the killings were politically motivated or some gangs were involved because the killings took place in different parts of the city and were not confined to the area where the elections were being held,” Karachi police Chief Fayyza Leghari said.

The two parties most linked to violence in Karachi — the Muttahida Quami Movement and the Awami National Party_ have their electoral bases in different ethnic groups that make up a large chunk of the city’s population.

The MQM claims to represent the Urdu-speaking descendants of those people who came to Karachi from India soon after the birth of Pakistan in 1947. It is secular and likes to speak out against the so-called Talibanization of the city, a jab at the Awami National Party, which represents the ethnic Pashtuns from the Taliban heartland in the northwest.

Raza Haider, the member of the provincial assembly who was gunned down in August, was a senior member of the MQM. In the wake of the shooting, the MQM accused the ANP of supporting Islamist militants suspected of being behind the murder — an allegation denied by the ANP.

Both parties were competing for Haider’s vacant seat, but the ANP announced Saturday evening that it would boycott the election, saying the MQM would rig the vote. The shootings began around the time the ANP made its announcement.

At least 25 people have been gunned down in Karachi since Saturday evening, said Zulfiqar Mirza, the home minister of Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital. He called on party leaders to come forward to “help us turn Karachi back into the city of light and peace.”

“If someone has a complaint, it should not be settled on the street,” Mirza told a news conference. “It is disappointing that we are shedding our priceless blood with our own hands.”

The dead include members of a broad range of ethnic groups in the city, he said.

Haider Abbas Rizvi, a senior MQM leader and member of Parliament, accused the ANP of being behind the shootings, saying “19 of our workers and supporters have been killed so far.”

Senior ANP member Amin Khattak denied the accusation, saying, “we are not involved in killings, and I think that this blame game should be stopped.”

Leghari, the police chief, said at least three of the killings did not seem to be politically motivated and were carried out during “other criminal offenses.”

The killings were reminiscent of the violence that followed Haider’s murder. At least 45 people died in the days following his killing.

Police have arrested at least 60 people in connection with the most recent shootings, Mirza said. But few killers in such cases have ever been brought to justice, and motives for the attacks have not been revealed.

The rising tension between the MQM and the ANP represents a serious danger to stability in Karachi, a city of some 16 million people and Pakistan’s commercial hub.

Pashtuns have been arriving in the city in greater numbers in recent years, fleeing Pakistan army offensives against the Taliban. An estimated 4 million Pashtuns are now in Karachi and many live in sprawling slums on the outskirts that are “no-go” areas for authorities.

Violence has surged in Karachi this year with hundreds of people slain in target killings. This increase has echoes of the city’s bloody past.

In the 1980s and 1990s, Karachi was regularly convulsed by violence in which hundreds were killed. MQM leader Altaf Hussain fled to London in 1992 as a result of that bloodshed and was granted asylum. He regularly addresses large gatherings of supporters by telephone link.

Prominent Pakistani Politician Murdered Outside His London Home

By Laura Roberts and Heidi Blake for The Telegraph

Imran Farooq, a prominent Pakistani politician, has been murdered outside his home in London. Dr Farooq, 50, was repeatedly stabbed in the head and neck during the assault in Edgware, north London.

He was a leading member of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) party, which is one of the largest in Pakistan.

There were suggestions from Pakistan that he may have known his killer. When police arrived at the scene, they found Dr Farooq’s body outside his house.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said officers attended an address in Green Lane, Edgware, shortly before 5.30pm after reports of a serious assault. “On arrival, officers found a single Asian man aged 50 with multiple stab wounds and head injuries,” the spokesman said.

“Paramedics attended the man but he was pronounced dead at the scene.”

Next of kin have been informed and no arrests have been made.

Dr Farooq was expected to attend a birthday celebration at the MQM headquarters on London’s Edgware Road on Thursday night but the event was cancelled at the last minute. Police said it was too early to know if the murder was politically motivated.

The politician claimed asylum in Britain after spending seven years on the run as one of Pakistan’s most wanted fugitives. He was accused of a range of charges, including murder and torture.

He has not returned to Pakistan since his arrival in England in 1992.

He claimed that year that he was wanted “dead or alive”.

“This gave licence and impunity to every individual in Pakistan to assassinate me,” he said.

Dr Farooq said he spent more than seven years in hiding in Karachi, southern Pakistan. He continued: “It was impossible for me to remain in Pakistan due to the continued threat on my life and liberty.”

He insisted the claims against him in Pakistan were politically motivated and continued his involvement with the party from Britain.

Last month Raza Haider, another MQM member, was gunned down with his guard as he attended a funeral near the centre of Karachi. The killing triggered violence in which dozens of people were killed and at least 100 wounded.

Azeem Tariq, the former chairman, was murdered in Karachi 13 years ago. Intruders entered his home and shot him as he slept.

MQM, based in Karachi, is the fourth largest party in Pakistan and is part of the ruling coalition government. It has a strong anti-Taliban stance, although rivals accuse it of exaggerating the threat of the Taliban.

The party represents mainly descendants of Urdu-speaking migrants from India who settled in Pakistan when it was created in 1947.

A statement on the MQM website said the party had declared a ten-day period of mourning in Pakistan and around the world.

London has played host to many of Pakistan’s exiled politicians. Gen Pervez Musharraf, the former president, lives in self-imposed exile in London.

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