Karachi, Dec. 3 (Reuters): A regional party that withdrew support from Pakistan’s new civilian government, wiping out its tiny majority, said today it had reversed the decision and would stand by Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali.
“We have changed our decision in the wider interest of the country and democracy,” Nasreen Jalil, a senior leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) said. “We will continue to support the government of Prime Minister Jamali to end the political crisis,” she said.
The party dominates urban areas of the southern Sindh province. On November 27 the party withdrew support for Jamali, who was elected Prime Minister with a majority of just one vote.
With 17 seats in the National Assembly, the party’s decision threatened to bring down the government within weeks of its formation and underlined the fragility of Jamali’s position.
His pro-military Pakistan Muslim League Quaid-e-Azam party had to win over a number of smaller parties and 10 defectors from the anti-military Pakistan People’s Party to muster 172 seats needed for a majority in the 342-seat Assembly.
The withdrawal of MQM’s support had forced Jamali to resume talks with a hardline Islamic coalition opposed to US military and intelligence operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
MQM leaders had accused the government of failing to meet its commitments to crack down on what the party calls the “criminal element” belonging to a rival faction — Mohajir Qaumi Movement.
The breakaway faction controls several neighbourhoods of Karachi and the MQM has long been demanding action.
Political analysts had predicted the MQM could well change its mind if it got what it wanted. Jalil said authorities had taken “some steps” in recent days against the breakaway faction. Police said they had sealed off the headquarters of the dissident faction and arrested more than 100 of its activists.
Amir Khan, a central leader of the breakaway group, said more than 500 party members and their relatives had been detained during the 12-day operation. Khan himself has gone into hiding. Hundreds of people have been killed in factional fighting between the two groups since the early 1990s. Both groups lobby for the rights of Urdu-speaking people who migrated from India during the partition.
In recent years the mainstream MQM has thrown its doors open to people belonging to other ethnic groups, while the breakaway faction is opposed to the move.