ISLAMABAD - The government is pondering to make Muttahida Qaumi Movement its coalition partner in the centre and make them part of decision-making process to oversee a fair operation in Karachi.

“The prime minister is willing to accept them to demonstrate that the government is not against the MQM but the terrorists. He wants to convince them there is no discrimination,” a senior minister in Sharif’s cabinet told The Nation and added that the prime minister respects MQM mandate and was ready to welcome their genuine proposals for peace in Karachi even as an opposition party.

The minister said if the MQM believes the operation is designed to target them, they should become a part of the government to feel the truth.

The new development came after JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman presented 19-point MQM demand list to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for retracting their resignations from the parliament. A day after meeting the MQM Rabita Committee members at Nine Zero, Fazl called on the premier on Wednesday to discuss the concerns of the MQM.

Federal Cabinet members including Ahsan Iqbal and Pervaiz Rashid also attended the meeting. The prime minister expressed his willingness for listening to the concerns of the MQM parliamentarians himself in the second round of talks to be held in Islamabad in a next few days and said that the government was ready to address all the genuine concerns of the MQM but not at the cost of ongoing Rangers’ operation against criminals in the port city.

Fazl informed the prime minister that MQM also wanted to see the operation to continue till its logical conclusion but they just wanted redressing of their genuine concerns about the operation, particularly unjust detention of their leaders and activists beyond the legal framework by the authorities.

Fazl Rehman said that the attack on MQM leader Rashid Godil led to suspension of talks halfway otherwise he was prepared to convince MQM to travel back to Federal Capital with him to settle the issue.

Premier Sharif praised Fazl for his efforts to bring political harmony, stability and reconciliation and hoped that the resignations issue of MQM MPs would be resolved amicably.

Later talking to media persons after the meeting, the JUI-F chief said that the next round of talks would be held directly between the stakeholders and hoped that the issue would be resolved at positive note.

To a question he said that he saw no hurdle in the constitution of monitoring committee, one of the key demands of MQM, and hoped that when MQM delegations would meet prime minister in a next few days things would settle for better. Talking to The Nation, MQM lawmaker Syed Asif Hasnain said his party can consider becoming part of the government but “our reservations must be addressed first.”

“We can take the next step when we are done with the first one. We are political people and cannot rule out alliance with any party. If Altaf Hussain and Nawaz Sharif agree on terms, we can even join the government,” he added.

Hasnain said the trust-deficit needs to be overcome before expecting friendship. “At this time we feel we are being targeted. The government must prove us wrong or accept our claims. Once we are comfortable, we can consider such offers (to join the government),” he added.

Asked if Prime Minister Sharif had contacted the MQM for a meeting on Thursday in Karachi, Hasnainin said: “There can be a possibility of a meeting but until now no meeting is scheduled. This can be due to the security concerns.”

He said that the PML-N cannot afford to let the MQM quit the assemblies as it would create a political crisis. “Suppose we go and boycott the by-elections as well, who will benefit.... possibly the PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf) and Imran Khan can become the opposition leader. This won’t be any good news for the government,” he added.

Sheikh Salahuddin, another lawmaker from the MQM, said the talks with Fazlur Rehman have been positive and the resignation issue would be solved if the government showed sincerity. “As far as joining the government, only Altaf Hussain can take a decision. If they accept all our demands, I think our leadership can consider such a possibility. But such an offer will be before time if other differences remain,” he added. Sheikh Rohail Asghar from the PML-N said the government must not offer partnership to the MQM. “There are some friends who continue to float such silly ideas. I think there is no way they can be our partners,” he added.