By now, the people of Pakistan have become accustomed to the alienation-reconciliation cycle of relations existing between the PPP and the MQM for some time past. And when there was a bust-up last time after the mercurial and aggressive Dr Zulfiqar Mirza (PPP), holding the portfolio of Home Ministry in the Sindh province, had defended the Amn Committees whom the MQM had accused of violence in Karachi, few doubted that soon contacts would take place between the higher echelons of the two parties leadership and things would get back to normal. Dr Mirza also tried to wash away the humiliation of going to Nine Zero on the previous occasion of a break-up, which was being interpreted as an apology, saying that he never felt sorry for his utterances. The story, in fact, the reality is: Target killings, sadly a routine occurrence in Karachi, rise to a crescendo that prompts Dr Mirza to angrily point an accusing finger at the MQM or defend and own a set-up that the MQM charges with committing murders. Showing its extreme annoyance, the MQM reacts sharply, in a huff leaves the coalition the PPP leads at the federal level, and decides not to sit on the treasury benches. The PPPs stock-in-trade game of reconciliation, an outright deceptive stratagem, then comes into play, and it sets about making friendly overtures in an attempt to remove the misunderstanding. Emissaries go out to meet leaders of MQM in Karachi or even Altaf Hussain in London. Differences are papered over after hectic parleys and things start moving back. However, the MQM stays away from the corridor of power to an extent that it does not accept a cabinet slot to keep the sword of separation hanging. For the time being, though, the government is assured of its majority in the National Assembly that in the present equation is only possible with the MQM throwing its weight on its side. The patch-up that was announced late Tuesday night does not, therefore, promise lasting, harmonious ties between the two. That is because it is difficult to see the menace of target killings ending, unless there is the political will to stamp it out. While previously it were the MQM and the PPP who could claim Karachi as one of their strongholds, now a third party, the ANP, has come into the equation and has a stake in the local politics on account of the growing population of its supporters in the city. Unless all the three parties decide to take a strategic decision that they would put aside their individual party interests and work for the security and welfare of the Karachiites, there is little hope of lasting peace returning to the city.