LAHORE - Following tug of war for top party leadership in Karachi, the Punjab chapter of Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan is also facing the same situation, as a result of which its future in the country's biggest province seems bleak.

It is divided into two factions, one continuing loyalties with Dr Farooq Sattar and the other accepting Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi as the legitimate convener of Rabita Committee.

As many as 17 senior members, led by Abid Gujjar, have parted ways with the PIB and joined hands with Bahadurabad group.

The split has forced the PIB group to review the office-bearers of provincial chapter, though retaining Malik Waseem Khokhar as president.

Bahadurabad group has assigned the responsibility of leading the provincial chapter to Abid Gujjar, who previously served as senior vice president and general secretary before the split in MQM Pakistan.

Insiders say that there was consensus to remain united and wait for the decision of Election Commission of Pakistan. Those having link with Shabbir Qaimkhawani, however, violated the decision of remaining neutral and shifted loyalties to Bahadurabad group.

The disintegration delivered a decisive blow to the Punjab chapter which was already facing serious challenges to get some political space in the most populated federating unit.

Rare visits of central leaders, weekly meetings at office in Muslim Town, press releases on important political developments and membership campaigns after some period were keeping the party alive.

Tussle for top leadership in the port city and replication of the situation in Punjab has led to considerable decrease in political activities of MQM Pakistan not only in the province but even at its office.

Prior to tussle between PIB and Bahadurabad, provincial office-bearers were at least giving some time to the office to deal visiting workers. One or two office-bearers visit the office which is giving a deserted look these days. Now the party activities are confined to weekly meetings of office-bearers.

Provincial leadership from both the factions gave arguments to defend decision of staying with PIB or going toward Bahadurabad. They, however, admitted a decrease in the party activities in the province and at the office due to the prevailing scenario. Both the factions are hopeful that the ECP decision will be in their favour that will ultimately lead to revival of party activities at important juncture before general elections.

“Yes this is a break in party activities in the province. But it is temporary. The ECP decision will revive party activities. We believe that we are on the right side and hopefully the decision will be in our favour”, said Abid Gujjar who has recently been made president of the Punjab chapter by Bahadurabad camp.

“MQM Pakistan will nominate candidates in the coming general elections. District chapters have been asked to continue membership campaign and identify suitable candidates for party tickets. Hopefully, more candidates will be fielded from Punjab as compared to last general elections,” he said. However, he did not give the likely number of contestants. 

Provincial office-bearers appointed by Farooq Sattar also admitted decrease in party activities. They, however, said that there were some other reasons besides tug of war for party leadership in the port city.

“We gave a reception to Farooq Sattar two weeks ago. We also sent more than 1,000 membership forms to PIB,” said Malik Waseem Khokhar appointed by PIB group as provincial president of MQM Pakistan. He said that membership campaign has been temporarily suspended due to death of mother of general secretary.

“Membership campaign will restart soon,” he said, adding, MQM Pakistan would actively participate in coming general elections.

Referring to the situation prevailing in Karachi and Lahore, General Secretary Kashif Khursheed expressed hope that the ECP decision would pave way for ending the crises. He was also hopeful that the ECP verdict would be in favour of Farooq Sattar.

Another provincial leader from PIB group claimed that some of the old workers going to other side were already sidelined due to objectionable activities. The remaining, he said, violated the decision of not becoming a party till ECP decision.

“Majority of workers who have gone to Bahadurabad camp were already expelled from the party. They are aiming to get new political life after the split,” said MQM leader Khurram Shehzad.

“Our few friends have taken decision in a hurry to please Shabbir Qaimkhawani. They should have waited for the ECP decision,” he said.

“We are continuing our political activities. Office-bearers are giving due time to the party office. Hopefully, the ECP decision will be in favour of Farooq Sattar that will cause the dissidents to return. If it is otherwise, we will not go to the Bahadurabad camp and will prefer to go home. The reason is that Farooq Sattar was giving due attention to provincial chapter. The Bahadurabad camp is not interested in Punjab at all,” Khurram Shahzad said.