As the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) waits to hear the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) decision on the media ban on its chief Altaf Hussain, the federal government has decided in principle to continue a ‘blackout’ of the party on all forums for the foreseeable future.
It will also persist with its policy of not accepting the resignations of the party’s lawmakers, sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune.
The move comes as the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) once again urged Senate chairman and speakers of legislative assemblies to not accept resignations of MQM lawmakers.
Separately, a senior PML-N official has also suggested that the government may soon restart the stalled negotiations with the Karachi-based party.
‘Blackout’ to continue
While the LHC will on Friday decide whether to lift a media ban on MQM chief’s speeches, the senior PML-N source added that they had decided on continuing the ‘blackout’ of the party regardless of the court’s decision, following consultations with all stakeholders of the ongoing Karachi operation.
Sources in PML-N said that the court-led media ban on MQM had proven beneficial for the ongoing security operation. They added that the MQM failed to achieve its target of collecting hides on Eidul Azha and that the party’s sector and unit in-charges had by and large stopped their activities.
They added that the blackout will support efforts of law enforcement agencies to catch target killers in and outside Pakistan. Meanwhile, senior PML-N leader MNA Talal Chaudhry said that if the LHC lifts the ban on Altaf’s speeches on television, it was up to the channels to decide what they should broadcast since media was independent and that the government cannot dictate terms.
The government had recently urged heads of Senate and legislative assemblies once again to not accept resignations of MQM’s lawmakers.
MQM is the fourth largest party in the National Assembly by Seats, and is the second largest party in the Sindh Assembly. On August 12, MQM lawmakers had submitted their resignations from assemblies citing reservations over the Ranger-led operation in Karachi. Former National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq followed government’s policy of not accepting MQM’s resignations while Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani followed directions from Pakistan Peoples Party’s Co-Chairperson Asif Ali Zardari to not accept MQM’s resignations.
Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani had set a deadline of October 5 for ruling on MQM’s resignations. But sources said that both, the government and the PPP leadership, have approached Rabbani and successfully urged him not to accept resignations of MQM’s eight senators.
Almost all parties in Parliament, except PTI, have asked Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s (JUI-F) Fazlur Rehman to convince MQM to withdraw their resignations and return to the assemblies. While the JUI-F leader held several rounds of talks with the MQM, talks have been stalled since the first week of September.
All options on table: MQM
Aminul Haq, a member of MQM’s Rabita Committee says all options on a future strategy for the party are open. He added that their immediate priority was the local government elections in Sindh and Punjab.
Asked about the government’s decision to persist with a blackout regardless of the court’s decision, Haq said.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 2nd, 2015.