ISLAMABAD / KARACHI: Two months after its lawmakers tendered their resignations from the Senate, the National Assembly and the Sindh Assembly, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) announced its return to the legislative bodies on Friday after the government agreed to form a civilian committee to oversee the paramilitary Rangers-led operation in Karachi.
The MQM lawmakers had handed in their resignations in protest against the surgical operation that they claimed was being used for the victimisation of their party.
The announcement came after three-day long talks between the government and MQM in Islamabad. Finance Minister Ishaq Dar led the government’s panel while Farooq Sattar led the MQM team. Later, both the leaders held a press conference after signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU).
Talking to the media, Dar said a five-member Grievance Redressal Committee (GRC) will start its work from Monday to formulate its rules of procedures and Terms of Reference (ToR) within five days.
Dar said the eight MQM senators will withdraw their resignations as the Senate resumes its session on Monday. “The MQM will also join the National Assembly and the Sindh Assembly after beginning of their sessions,” he added.
The finance minister said the MQM’s resignations were not accepted as they were politically motivated. “So government approached them to review their decision and later both sides succeeded to reach an agreement,” he said.
Dar said Karachi operation was started with the MQM’s consent and would continue as all surveys showed law and order situation of the port city had improved. He said the GRC would submit its final report regarding MQM’s grievances to the federal government.
He also appreciated the reconciliatory efforts of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Moulana Fazlur Rehman, who, on the request of the government, visited to the MQM headquarter 90 to convince the party to take back its lawmakers resignations. The MQM’s Farooq Sattar elaborated the scope of the GRC said, “The MQM from day one demanded a civilian oversight, parliamentary monitoring committee or the GRC on ongoing Karachi operation”.
He said the GRC would address their grievances over the alleged forced disappearances of the MQM’s workers, their targeted killing and violation of basic human rights. “The GRC is preliminary a step, which will address the MQM’s complaints of disappearances of its workers,” he said.
Sattar said that after notification of the GRC, the MQM would start its negotiation with government to get permission to carry out its charity work and political activities at sector level in Karachi.
“The MQM will also negotiate with government over the issue of the ban on the MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s telephonic speeches to the party workers,” he said, adding that the MQM wanted level playing field for upcoming LG election in Sindh province.
Details of the MoU
According to details of the MoU which both the leaders shared in a joint press conference, it is mutually agreed that the government will issue notification for constitution of the GRC.
The GRC will address the MQM’s and any other political party’, person or entity’s concerns regarding the alleged abuse of power or authority by a law enforcement agency or any other government institution during the ongoing operation.
The notification will be issued within five working days of the signing of the MoU. The GRC shall consist of five members of which federal secretary interior will be an ex-officio member and the secretary.
The GRC shall adopt its own procedure and rules of business. The federal government shall provide secretariat support to the GRC. The GRC shall complete its work on the complaints within 90 days.
Immediately upon its notification and preferably within 15 days, the GRC shall take up and attend to the grievances relating to Karachi, under the law and the Constitution, in particular matters relating to life and liberty. The GRC may on case to case basis submit its findings to the federal government.
Although, the MQM and the government’s teams have agreed on the GRC, they have neither agreed on the GRC’s ToR nor committee’s composition.
Sources said the MQM wanted that the GRC should include human rights activists, technocrats and a retired judge – most probably Justice Nasir Aslam Zahid – to probe the MQM’s allegations. Apart from it, the MQM also wanted to determine the ToR of the GRC prior to returning to the assemblies.
However, the MQM has agreed to return to legislatures without first determining the committee’s composition and ToR apparently in view of the upcoming LG elections in Sindh province.
Talking to The Express Tribune, an MQM lawmaker, who wished not to be named, said there were serious concerns that if the party campaigned for the LG polls without taking back its resignations, it might have to face grave difficulties at the hand of law enforcement agencies as it would be without support of its parliamentarians.
SC seeks Senate chairman’s statement
The Supreme Court also directed the court’s registrar to submit Senate Chairman Raza Rabbibi’s ruling regarding resignations of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Muttahida Quomi Movement (MQM) legislators from National Assembly, the Senate and provincial assemblies.
The three-member bench, headed by Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali, heard the case related to the resignation issue of the MQM and PTI. During the course of proceedings, Justice Amir Hani Muslim questioned whether the apex court could intervene in the proceedings of the parliament.
Petitioner Zafar Ali Shah, a former PML-N lawmaker, said that parliamentary proceedings was a different matter while the office issue of Speaker National Assembly chamber was another issue which should not be related to the parliamentary proceedings and the court should review the matter.
He said that the resignations of PTI’s National Assembly members were pending in the speaker’s office for the last eight months. He said that the Senate chairman also gave ruling regarding resignations of PTI and MQM parliamentarians.
The chief justice remarked that he had not reviewed the chairman’s ruling and directed to submit before the bench. Syed Zaffar Ali Shah said that the resignations are in the office of the speaker, as they are not being accepted deliberately.
Meanwhile, the court has adjourned the case for one month after issuing notices to the defendants.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 10th, 2015
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