Qayyum calls for Muslim Conference unity
16 March 2004
Our Staff Correspondent
MUZAFFARABAD: Muslim Conference's leader Sardar Abdul Qayyum Khan on Monday expressed the desire to keep the ruling party united despite appearance of symptoms to the contrary. '(Though) the basis for the split (in the Conference) are visible, yet I hope that wisdom will prevail ... a division must not occur at this critical juncture,' he told this correspondent at his Ghaziabad residence in the Bagh district on Monday. The veteran Kashmiri leader is currently residing in his home village since March 7 when his wife passed away. A large number of people from the Azad Kashmir and Pakistan visit him daily to offer condolences. 'Statements reflecting differences are regrettable. We will keep on trying to keep the party intact,' he said after being asked to comment on remarks made by Prime Minister Sardar Sikandar Hayat regarding a split in the party. The PM had said he would not share the blame if the party was divided. 'Unfortunately our political culture has also been tarnished, causing split after the split in every party,' Sardar Qayyum said. The current political crisis began late last month when four ministers, a parliamentary secretary and another legislator heading the Ulema-Mashaikh council handed over their resignations to Sardar Qayyum to protest against Mr Hayat's policies. These ministers and their colleagues were backed by the Muslim Conference chief Sardar Attique Ahmed, who told journalists that the majority of the Conference's lawmakers wanted to change the leader of the house and favoured him in this regard. Sardar Attique had called for holding a secret ballot to ascertain the free will of the MC parliamentary party. But neither Sardar Sikandar nor the powers that be had accepted to his proposal. On March 6, the PM managed to create an impression of being triumphant in the power tussle after he gathered 19 lawmakers, including LA Speaker Sardar Siab Khalid, at his office who in a statement delivered on the occasion reposed their 'trust in the government and leadership of Sardar Sikandar.' The PM had also asked rebel ministers to withdraw their resignations - so far withheld by Sardar Qayyum - and resume their functions or else he would have no choice but to sack them. But the rebel ministers have refused to budge and instead asked the PM to step down in the larger interest of the party. Insiders told Dawn that the crisis was multiplying after Sardar Qayyum's alleged refusal to control it. 'Sardar Qayyum should not have kept resignations for 20 days if he was unable to resolve the crisis,' Sardar Sikandar told a public meeting on Sunday in remarks that MC sources believe were bound to add fuel to the fire. Rebel ministers said they had been stopped by Sardar Qayyum from issuing any statements because 'the war of words could not auger well for the party.' 'If Sardar Sikandar does not face any threat to his power, why is he so aggressive? He should run the government smoothly. There is no need to be angry about anything,' Sardar Qayyum said on the PM's remarks. He said he was not a party (in the crisis), but it was his responsibility to ensure that the grievances of the party men were removed. He said a secret ballot in the parliamentary party could amicably resolve the crisis without impairing the party's functionality 'but I wonder why the powerful forces are opposed to it.' Criticizing the holding of the cricket matches between India and Pakistan, he said on the one hand 80,000 Kashmiris had laid down their lives for Pakistan while on the other 'cricket carnivals' were being celebrated here. 'I wonder if their sense of honour is still alive. They are busy in merrymaking while their Kashmiri brethren are being cold bloodedly being killed.'