PML-N forms alliance with MQM ahead of fresh polls

JUI-F, Functional League likely to join forces with PML-N as well

After MQM leaders meeting with Nawaz in Lahore, both parties agreed to adopt a joint strategy to fight general elections n Shehbaz says collaboration with MQM will benefit the region n Sattar proposes ‘charter for national interest’ n Kamal says MQM will support Nawaz Sharif to lead country.

LAHORE  -  In what appears to be an unexpected development in country’s politics, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Tuesday announced that both the parties would jointly contest the upcoming elections

The announcement of the alliance said to be anti-PPP comes amid reports that other political forces in Sindh such as the Functional League and the JUI-F will also join their ranks in the near future with PML-N. 

This development follows the PPP’s expressed intention to form an electoral alliance with the PTI, citing concerns about an uneven playing field for other political parties. Recent events, particularly the return of PML-N leader Mian Nawaz Sharif, have raised skepticism within the PPP about the Nawaz party’s actions, potentially under the influence of country’s powerful establishment.

“We had already planned a year and a half ago that we will go to the next elections together. There will also be discussions with JUI-F and Functional League for collaboration. We are going to fight the February 8 election in an atmosphere of openness and tolerance,” senior PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique said while talking to the media after an MQM delegation led by Dr Khalid Maqbool called on the PML-N Quaid Mian Nawaz Sharif and President Shehbaz Sharif at the party’s central secretariat here. 

He was accompanied by MQM leaders Dr. Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Kamal who also talked of a broader collaboration with the PML-N apart from jointly contesting the coming elections.

A joint communique issued at the end of the meeting said that both the parties agreed to adopt a joint strategy to bring the people of Pakistan out of the current problems and to put Pakistan back on the path of development. The two parties also decided to set up a six-member committee to prepare a comprehensive charter to address the problems of Sindh province, especially its urban areas. The committee will present the final proposals for cooperation between the two parties to the leadership within 10 days.

Chief Organiser of the PML-N Maryam Nawaz, Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Ayaz Sadiq, Parvez Rasheed, Rana Sanaiullah and Maryam Aurangzeb were also part of deliberations held with MQM leaders at party’s central secretariat in Model Town.

During his meeting with a delegation from the MQM, Pakistan Muslim League (N) leader Nawaz Sharif expressed his optimism about the collaboration with the MQM, viewing it as a positive step towards addressing the country’s challenges and serving the people. He emphasized their joint commitment to working towards the betterment of Pakistan, focusing on equal development across regions, including Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan.

Nawaz Sharif underlined the PML-N’s dedication to prioritising the development of all areas of Pakistan without discrimination, citing examples of completed projects that have significantly improved the lives of the people. He highlighted the successful completion of the Lowari tunnel, a project that had been pending for half a century, bringing relief to the local population by reducing travel times.

Nawaz Sharif also mentioned the construction of the Hazara Motorway and the benefits it has brought to the people. He pointed out that the Chitral highway in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has made life easier for the residents by reducing travel distances. During their tenure, he recalled that they had maintained the exchange rate of the dollar at 104 rupees for four years and ensured price stability for essential commodities like flour and sugar. 

Nawaz Sharif questioned the economic decisions made by other governments, highlighting the increase in inflation and the rising cost of living. He also expressed disappointment that despite their efforts to break free from the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the nation had not committed to avoiding future IMF loans. He lamented the sharp increase in the price of bread during their era.

Concluding his remarks, Nawaz Sharif emphasised the potential for projects like Tharkol to alleviate poverty in the country, urging a concerted effort to promote economic development, agriculture, industry, and information technology for the benefit of the nation.

Shehbaz Sharif, the former Prime Minister and President of the Pakistan Muslim League (N), acknowledged the strong and positive support of the MQM during the 16 months of their coalition government. He emphasized that he regularly informed Mian Nawaz Sharif about the valuable cooperation extended by the MQM, stressing that their focus during this period was on safeguarding Pakistan’s interests, even if it meant political losses.

During this time, the coalition government undertook several development projects in Karachi, allocating billions of rupees for initiatives like K4, University, and others aimed at improving the lives of the city’s residents. Shehbaz Sharif noted that projects benefiting the people of Karachi have always held a special place in Nawaz Sharif’s heart. 

Shehbaz Sharif also credited Nawaz Sharif for his dedicated efforts in restoring peace to Karachi, highlighting the significance of this achievement. 

Concluding his statement, Shehbaz Sharif expressed the PML-N’s commitment to serving the people of Karachi and Sindh, and their intention to continue collaborating with the MQM for the greater benefit of the region in the future. 

Khawaja Saad Rafique, during his media briefing following the meeting, stressed the necessity of broad cooperation to address the country’s economic challenges. He highlighted a charter previously signed during the PDM government and expressed the desire for both parties to participate in elections together.

Rafique revealed the decision to adopt a united stance on elections, as well as political and legal matters. Additionally, Nawaz Sharif and Shehbaz Sharif appointed Bashir Memon as the new president of the Sindh chapter. 

Regarding the PPP’s relationship with the Muslim League-N, Rafique emphasized the historical political struggle shared between the two parties and their commitment to maintaining social relations, despite occasional disagreements. He stated that they won’t respond to political jabs and noted that Bilawal Bhutto is free to express his opinions. Rafique also shared that Bashir Memon had been sought for a while and praised him as a principled individual. He highlighted that being a retired bureaucrat is not a crime, and they would not forget their old comrades.

Dr Farooq Sattar addressed the need for a common, broadbased strategy to address the country’s challenges following the formation of assemblies. He announced the formation of a committee with three members from each party to adopt a shared strategy for elections and consult with other parties for national consensus. Farooq Sattar stressed the need for discussions on solving challenges such as unemployment, inflation and poverty. “No political power is in a position to bring the nation out of prevailing challenges, hence there is a need for a larger alliance, he added.

He proposed a ‘Charter for national interest’, which would soon be prepared by his party and the PML-N. He added that the charter would also be shared with other political parties. “Together, this is the only way to regain the trust of the public,” he said. 

Sattar acknowledged the critical role Karachi plays in national politics and the economy. He stressed the importance of solving challenges after government formation, given Pakistan’s serious economic problems. He also emphasized the significance of unity among political parties in addressing these issues.

Mustafa Kamal highlighted the need for strong leadership to navigate the crisis, particularly praising Nawaz Sharif’s experience and leadership. He emphasized that MQM would support Nawaz Sharif in leading the country out of difficulties. Kamal underscored the seriousness of the country’s economic crisis, with Karachi playing a crucial role, and expressed optimism about MQM’s return to its 2013 position.

Kamal concluded by emphasizing the importance of making tough decisions to address the country’s challenges, emphasizing that this might be the last opportunity to do so.

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