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Politics of confrontation.

Whatever the other motives, the hunger strike was certainly not undertaken to bring peace to Karachi and the rest of Sindh. It posed a challenge for the PPP, but there was some speculation that it also provided an opportunity for the party, if it was allowed to do so by its own hardliners in Sindh, to make a renewed attempt to break the MQM away from the IJI.

Karachi passed through an ordeal during the last few weeks. At one point the situation was so critical that army had to be deployed in the city. There were fears that street confrontation could take place any day between the Pakistan Peoples Party and MQM followers. Najeeb Ahmed PPP activist and former President Peoples Students Federation succumbed to the injuries which further deteriorated the law and order situation. Mr. Altaf Hussain MQM Chief went on hunger strike until death while PPP activist demanded his arrest as they alleged MQM involvement in a plot to murder Najeeb Ahmed. Rashid Rabbani President Karachi PPP also went on hunger strike until death.

The gravity of situation could be gauged from the fact that Chief of Army Staff Mirza Aslam Beg had to issue a stern warning that the happenings in Karachi presented a crisis situation. He warned that political situation was very depressing at a time when the country was faced with a serious threat from across the border.

An imminent clash between the two major political forces of Sindh on the streets of Karachi and Hyderabad was in sight. Traffic became thin on the streets as public transporters preferred to stay away from the roads. All schools, colleges and universities were closed. The tension arose due to bloody gang war between PPP and MQM activists in which at least 20 people were killed. Police arrested senior leaders of both parties. Deployment of tanks and armoured personnel carriers at strategic points in the city proved to be the deterrent against the violence. There was heavy tension after the death of Najeeb Ahmed but PPP leadership specially sent Mr. Ghulam Mustafa Khar to Karachi to counsel restraint on party workers.

It was at the intervention of Sindh Governor Justice (Retired) Fakhruddin G. Ibrahim that the long drawn crisis came to an end. It was reassuring that Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan played a befitting role worthy of him as an elderly politician. The end of Mr. Altaf Hussain's hunger strike is being viewed as breathing time before the two groups get involved in another tussle. A four-point agreement was reached between the MQM and the Sindh Government as follows: [right arrow] The Government of Sindh has and will continue to

work for peace in the province. [right arrow] The Government of Sindh assures that life and
 property of the people of Sindh will be protected
 and justice will be done to all sections of
 population without discrimination.

[right arrow] All criminals responsible for killings will be
 apprehended and dealt with in accordance with

[right arrow] The Government of Sindh is prepared for talks

unconditionally on all issues.

It is quite likely that a dialogue between MQM and PPP may start soon. The parties will have to start talking immediately and quickly to finalise a format to implement the 4-point agreement. Sindh Chief Minister has also had a meeting with COP leader Nawabzadah Nasrullah Khan to finalise the details and format of the process to be followed to implement the agreement.

There are indications that peace may return to Sindh and clashes and conflicts may become things of the past. In this context significant development was the appeal of Sindh National Alliance (SNA) to the MQM to start negotiation with them for creating peaceful atmosphere in the province. Another significant development was the presence of American Ambassador in Karachi to resolve the tension. Political observers felt that Mr. Oaklay's meeting with the Sindh politicians took place at a time when acute tension permeate the ranks of the activists of both the Pakistan Peoples Party and the MQM. Mr. Oaklay had also met a number of leading politicians in Islamabad recently and discussed the current political situation in the country.

There were various theories about Mr. Altaf Hussain's action. It obviously increased the pressure on the already harried PPP Governments in Sindh and at the Centre and was seen as a further blackmailing tactic by the IJI. It is significant that Mr. Altaf Hussain's statement announcing his fast was preceded with appeals to the President to intervene in the Sindh situation. (A constitutional petition filed by the Punjab and Balochistan governments in the Supreme Court asking for a convening of the Council of Common Interests was seen as part of the pressure tactics.)

But the hunger strike actions was also interpreted by some as linked to the divisions within the MQM among the hardliners and those who want the organization to end its links with the IJI. It is said that the former were feeling increasingly isolated and the hunger strike was meant to bring the party together. Whatever the other motives, the hunger strike was certainly not undertaken to bring peace to Karachi and the rest of Sindh. It posed a challenge for the PPP, but there was some speculation that it also provided an opportunity for the party, if it was allowed to do so by its own hardliners in Sindh, to make a renewed attempt to break the MQM away from the IJI.

Analysing the hunger strike itself it had no basis which could evoke sympathy. No wonder the hunger strike did little to evoke any reaction in the country. Except for the release of Khalid bin Walid all other demands of Mr. Altaf Hussain were general. For instance he demanded the massacre and genocide of the Mohajirs be stopped. Both PPP and MQM were involved in gang war-fare and it should be stopped at all cost.

PPP is hopeful to mobilise the support of 158 or more members of the National Assembly within the next 8 to 10 weeks. The ruling party requires the support of two-third majority in the National Assembly to get rid of the Eighth Amendment in the Constitution. Out of a House of 237, the PPP must acquire support to 158 members. Confident PPP circles have claimed that after the failure of the Combined Opposition Parties to get through the vote of non-confidence against the PPP government of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on November 1, 1989 a number of opposition members have joined the Government and others are seriously thinking to jump on the Government bandwagon.

The recent comeback staged by the MNAs from Federally Administered Tribal Areas is indicative that a large number of those who had joined the opposition were now disappointed with its performance and were reconsidering their stand. PPP also claimed that several opposition members unwilling to defect openly just yet, had promised to vote for the premier in any secret ballot. The first consideration of most members is to see out their own terms and not to create conditions for pme general elections. Encouraged by these developments Federal Law Ministers Iftekhar Hussain Gilani disclosed that the constitution would be restored eventually to pre-Zia shape. If so this would once again make the Prime Minister and the Cabinet sole repository of all executive powers, some of which currently are in the president's domain.

However there are many snags across the path of restoring the democracy in the real sense. The eighth amendment cannot go without the approval of the parliament's upper house - the Senate - which comprises members elected during the Zia era. Next year half of the senators will retire to permit the induction of new members. Till then the approval of the Senate is a remote possibility.


India has issued stern warning to Pakistan accusing this country for the internal subversion in the Kashmir valley. Pakistan has repeatedly classified that this country has no hand in the uprising in Kashmir. Pakistan merely support struggle for the independence of the Kashmiris. An independent Kashmir would be quite viable. There are several land-locked countries that have flourished as independent states. Switzerland is one example, Nepal is another. An independent Kashmir is more favourably placed economically than Nepal. It would not be solely dependent on either India or Pakistan for a trade outlet.

Pakistan has no intention to start war with India. This was categorically stated by the top leadership of Pakistan. India has repeatedly issued threats to Pakistan and a situation of alert has been created around the borders. Whether the two countries would go to war at the moment to settle their scores? This seems unlikely in view of the international situation. Long drawn war cannot be undertaken and neither of the two countries would be able to sustain it. Pakistan has taken an initiative to bring the Indian leaders on negotiative terms to reduce the high tension and a dialogue had already started at New York between the two foreign ministers of the respective countries. Although the talks ended in fiasco it had happy ending in the sense that the two sides have come to negotiating table on the thorny issue of Kashmir. The super powers are not in a mood to escalate into in fullfledged war in the Indo-Pak subcontinent. Apparently India is fighting a losing battle in Kashmir. As many as five hundred people have been killed since the uprising for independence has started in the valley in January this year.
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Title Annotation:conflict between the Pakistan People's Party and MQM followers
Author:Haidari, Iqbal
Publication:Economic Review
Date:Apr 1, 1990
Previous Article:Mr. I.A. Hanfi reappointed governor, State Bank of Pakistan.
Next Article:A look at 1990-91.

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