MQM, Asif spar on army act extension

Asif's criticism of the MQM prompted an instant and scathing rejoinder.

By Afzal Khan

Published: Wed 17 Jun 2015, 11:01 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 2:58 PM

Islamabad: The National Assembly has passed a resolution seeking extension in the Pakistan Army Act (Amendment) Ordinance 2015 for 120 days in a session marred by sloganeering and a walkout by lawmakers from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). The move also triggered a verbal duel between a senior federal minister and MQM lawmakers.

The MQM lawmakers started protesting when Defence Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif stood up to table the resolution. Angered by the protest, Asif said it was a politically-motivated outcry as the MQM lawmakers fear “they can be tried under the law for their wrongdoings”. The ordinance is a part of the National Action Plan against terrorism which all political parties had already acquiesced to support.

Asif’s criticism of the MQM prompted an instant and scathing rejoinder. “We still remember how he [the defence minister] begged for an apology during the dharna (sit-in) days,” MQM’s Rasheed Godail said while referring to the marathon sit-in by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and the Pakistan Awami Tehreek in August, last year.

In Karachi, the MQM Rabita Committee on Tuesday condemned Khawaja Asif’s tirade as an insult to the entire ‘Mohajir’ community. MQM leader Farooq Sattar said Asif had used the expression ‘fake Mohajir’ that negates basis of creation of Pakistan. The committee also took exception to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent speech accusing the party of indulging in frequent strike in Karachi even if a “fly dies” there.

In a damage control, the prime minister clarified in the National Assembly on Tuesday afternoon, saying this expression was used by somebody among the traders he had addressed. He repeated it in his speech to underpin the harm done by strikes to the economy of Karachi and the country.

He said special attention has been paid to Karachi’s development projects in the federal budget for fiscal 2015-16 in addition to the funds transferred to Sindh province under the National Finance Commission’s award. He said the federal government will fund multi-billion rupees green line in Karachi and complete Karachi-Hyderabad motorway by middle of 2017.

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