ISLAMABAD - In a bid to get its man installed as Senate chairman, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has finally convinced both factions of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan with five senators on hand, sources claimed on Saturday.

After getting the backing of the badly split Karachi-based party, the PML-N, with a strength of 34 senators, seems to be further consolidating its position with the unflinching support of the National Party (NP) and the Pashtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PkMAP).

With the support of the MQM-P, the NP and the PkMAP, the PML-N will have the support of around 49 senators. The PML-N is making all-out efforts to garner the support of other smaller parties and independent senators from Balochistan and FATA, whose total strength is 15.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif along with senior party members also met with leaders of both factions of the MQM-P, seeking their support for the top slot of the Upper House of Parliament. 

Sources said that they also discussed at length other issues including the Karachi operation, MQM’s missing workers, the closure of MQM’s office etc.

“Both the factions of MQM-P (one led by Dr Farooq Sattar and the other by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui) have decided to support the ruling party (PML-N),” sources in the MQM-P told The Nation. They said that both the factions will formally announce their support for the PML-N at “a soon-to-be-called joint press conference”.

The romance between the MQM-P’s two factions remained limited only to Senate elections, as both the groups could not move an inch to resolve their internal differences including the issue of party’s convenership.

Both the major parties, the PML-N and the Pakistan People’s Party remained in constant touch with both the factions.

Khalid Maqbool, who is leading the Bahadarabad group, has the support of four senators including Faroogh Naseem, Mian Atiq, Khushbakht Shujat and Barrister Saif, whereas, Senator Nikhat Farooq is the only senator supporting Dr Sattar and the widening gap between the two groups seems palpable.

A formal decision about the party convenership would be announced by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on March 13.

The almost rout of the party in the recently held Senate elections, the sources said, was alarming for the MQM-P and the party would try to at least retain it parliamentary position in the National Assembly, as the third-largest opposition party, and in the Sindh Assembly, as the main major opposition group.

They said the next big challenge facing the party was awarding tickets for candidates for the next general election. “The split within the party could prove much damaging in the general election, as is witnessed in the Senate elections if differences between the two factions persist,” the sources said.

The sources claimed that the majority of party workers are optimistic that Dr Sattar will remain the convener.  Dr Sattar has already challenged the jurisdiction of the ECP in hearing or deciding the case related to the MQM-P convenorship, saying a solution to the issue was there in the party’s law. Whereas, the newly elected Senator Farogh Naseem says that 95 percent of the coordination committee was with Khalid Maqbool.

The MQM-P split into two groups on the issue of awarding tickets to candidates for Senate elections. Dr Sattar had floated the name of Kamran Tessori for a Senate ticket, which was strongly opposed by Amir Khan with the backing of several other party members.

On the other hand, the MQM-P, despite its all-out efforts, could not de-seat its 11 disgruntled members of parliament including three MNAs. Most of these disgruntled members have already joined the PSP-led by Mustafa Kamal.

The MQM-P had filed a reference against the 11 party members of national and provincial assemblies who include Asif Hasnain, Salman Mujahid Baloch, Irum Azeem Farooqi, Sheikh Abdullah, Khalid bin Wilayat, Abdul Razzaq, Irtaza Khalil,  Sufiyan, Nadeem Raazi, Arif Maseeh and Bilquis Mukhtiyar.

Political pundits say that the MQM-P would face a great deal of trouble in winning seats in the next general election due to the widening internal differences. They say that the MQM-P will have to do away with the differences to get seats in the next general election, otherwise, the party’s vote-bank would further split, and its rout could not be ruled out if the internal wrangling persists. 

The MQM-P is currently the third largest opposition party in the National Assembly with 24 members.