After Musharraf, it’s Shujaat’s turn
By Sarfaraz Ahmed
KARACHI: Has Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain got his message across effectively during his trip to Karachi? He has highlighted the claim that the Punjab sacrificed the premiership for Balochistan, and pleaded that it is not right to present Pakistan’s largest province in a bad light. The PML-QA chief has reportedly said the Punjab had sacrificed its interests for the national interest in the past and would continue to do the same in future.
Although Chaudhry Shujaat is also meant, reportedly, to discuss the Sindh government situation and seek a solution to intra-party rifts at the provincial level, he has come to the city with the specific purpose of discussing water projects with his party’s government coalition partners after President Musharraf’s visit to Sindh to mobilise public opinion in the water projects’ favour. Musharraf was more aggressive in this regard when he spoke at gatherings in Karachi and in his press conference at Hyderabad.
But the opposition continues to regard their moves with suspicion. According to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Gen Musharraf has been raising the Kalabagh Dam issue to cause an inter-provincial divide.
Chaudhry Shujaat has been reported as saying that the ruling party seeks to settle the issue by provincial consensus. In his view, the construction of big dams is vital for development and prosperity, whatever names they are built under. He has said the government has no objection to changing the name of Kalabagh Dam.
He has reportedly claimed that during his talk with Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, he emphasised the urgent need to ensure that Sindh did not suffer a loss of water, even if this required taking some measures at the expense of the Punjab.
Chaudhry Shujaat held meetings here on Sunday with Pir Pagaro and the ad hoc committee of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement to discuss the water issue and the structure of the Sindh government. According to reports, the meeting remained inconclusive, but Mr Hussain reportedly succeeded in getting assurances that the status quo would be maintained for the time being.
Governor Ishratul Ibad told reporters it had been decided to continue discussions on the water issue and harmonious relations between the provinces. Governor Ibad has also been reported as saying that there are no differences among the coalition partners.
The PML-QA’s coalition partners have already rejected the Greater Thal Canal project and there’s a near-consensus on the issue of the Kalabagh Dam from the PPP to nationalist parties: everyone is opposed to this project. But Gen Musharraf, it seems, is determined to appease the largest province by embarking on the projects.
The PPP, the major opposition party, is unlikely to go too far given that its re-emergence is mainly due to the Punjab.
The government will, of course, pressurise the nationalist parties. One of the accused in the Hyderabad massacre case has already alleged that the government’s decision to challenge a trial court’s acquittal of 32 nationalist leaders and workers in the Sindh High Court is part of this pressure.
It seems the MQM could go along with what the Punjab wants. Its leader Altaf Hussain is adept at making new deals.