‘I’ve been punished for standing against Altaf Hussain’ — Sattar removed as MQM-P convener

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday removed Farooq Sattar as the convener of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), approving the petitions filed by a rival faction of his party against his election to the post.

A five-member bench headed by the chief election commissioner also rejected Sattar’s application challenging the commission’s jurisdictionto hear petitions involving internal matters of the party.

Accepting the petitions filed by MQM-Bahadurabad — the faction rival to Sattar-led PIB group — leaders Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Kanwar Naveed Jameel, the ECP nullified the intra-party elections held under the leadership of Sattar — an election that he won by a heavy margin.

The commission also accepted a petition challenging the resolution passed at an “emergency general workers’ meeting” called by Sattar last month. At the convention, when Sattar had asked the participants through a resolution if they would endorse the coordination committee decision to remove him as the convener, the workers had replied in the negative.

Sattar, chief of his own faction of MQM-P, had earlier this month challenged the jurisdiction of ECP to hear petitions filed by rival MQM-Bahadurabad faction involving internal matters of the party.

On February 27, the ECP had given two days to Sattar-led PIB faction of the MQM-P to submit replies to petitions filed by the Bahadurabad group led by Siddiqui against it.

One of the petitions asked the ECP to replace Sattar with Siddiqui in its record. It pleaded that Sattar had been removed as convener by a two-thirds majority of the party’s Rabita Committee. Another petition challenged the February 18 intra-party elections. The Bahadurabad faction, which had elected Siddiqui as the convener after removing Sattar, had boycotted the exercise.

‘Dark verdict’

Speaking to reporters in the afternoon, Sattar said today’s judgement issued against him by the ECP bench would be remembered as a “dark verdict” among the commission’s rulings.

Terming the verdict “illegal and unconstitutional”, Sattar said never before has the commission issued judgements on intra-party disputes.

He said the “managed” ECP verdict was part of a larger conspiracy to quash MQM-Pakistan and its symbol of kite ahead of the 2018 general elections. He said the alleged plan did not just include the ‘minus Altaf’ formula, but crushing the whole party by distributing its votes among different parties.

“I have been punished for standing against MQM founder Altaf Hussain on August 23 [2016],” Sattar railed, referring to the day he announced that MQM would operate only from Pakistan and parted ways with Hussain over his incendiary speech of August 22. “And for standing alongside Pakistan, its Constitution and the Pakistani state.”

Asking how the ECP could interpret a party’s constitution without having the jurisdiction to do so, Sattar said the verdict has set an example for the future of other parties as well.

He said he was also punished today for his November 9, 2017, press conference in which he had announced the end of an uneasy alliance with the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) that both parties had suggested was brokered by the establishment.

MQM-PIB leader Ali Raza Abidi while speaking to reporters after the verdict was announced said the ruling was “injustice” with the Sattar-led group.

He said he will urge Sattar to challenge the verdict because the ECP is a “repository of information and not a trial court”.

The ECP which cannot hold a trial does not have the jurisdiction to pass such judgements, he claimed. He observed that the verdict was not read out by the ECP bench, but was disclosed by a reader.

Bahadurabad asks Sattar to ‘get together’

Following Sattar’s press conference, Faisal Sabzwari and other MQM-Bahadurabad leaders in their talk with media once again invited Sattar to join them in solving the party’s problems together.

Sabzwari said the party has sustained massive losses due to the rift between Sattar and the Bahadurabad faction.

“We are from the same party and if it exists we exist… So let’s get together.”

He said the party’s Rabita [Coordination] Committee has decided to formally invite Sattar to “take the party forward together”.

Recalling that Sattar had said he would accept whatever verdict ECP issues on March 26, Sabzwari said the Rabita Committee had decided not to accept any division.

He said MQM’s name, symbol and flag were all present in the party’s Bahadurabad office, which was the only MQM office.

In response to a question, he said the committee had suspended Kamran Tessori’s party membership on principles and that decision was currently not being reviewed.

“There will be only one MQM in the elections with just one party symbol: the kite,” he said.

Falling out

Differences within the MQM-P came to the fore on February 5 over distribution of tickets to candidates for the March 3 Senate election. The party split into two groups — one led by Sattar and the other by senior leader Amir Khan — and both sides took extreme actions against each other.

The Bahadurabad group ousted Dr Sattar from the post of convener with a two-thirds majority and in a tit-for-tat reaction Sattar held a workers’ convention the same day, dissolved the coordination committee and announced intra-party elections. On Feb 18, Sattar was elected the party convener after securing over 9,000 votes in the intra-party elections.

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