Will re-emergence of Altaf loyalists be a boon or bane for Karachiites?


Salahuddin Haider

AFTER watching the hate campaign against him for a considerable length of time, Altaf Hussain, the firebrand MQM founder leader, decided to opt finally for a come-back now. He named an interim 12-memer policy making coordination committee to work for him in Karachi, and although the team, named from London Friday night, did show up at the Press Club for media talk in less than 24 hours of its formation, its members had very little to say in their maiden appearance. They just could not convey any message to the people of Karachi, which can only be called a bad omen.
Difficult, therefore it is to predict with any amount of certainty whether the 9 chosen from Karachi, really impacted the situation, or remained a mere showpiece. For the present, the latter seems to be nearly true. Same could be the assessment, for the time being atleast for the remaining three—all from London—Nadeem Nusrat, Wasey Jalil, and Mustafa Azizabadi too—look unsure about themselves or about the future of the faction headed by Altaf.
All of them are old horses, tested and tried, but loyalists of course. However their physical ability to qualify for the triangular tight-rope walking, remains seriously in doubt. The obvious question, arising, therefore, is whether Dr Zafar Aarif, previously of PPP, and a renowned leftist of his time, and Kunwar Khalid Yunus, greatly handicapped after paralysis attack, can withstand the pressures, likely to be generated from time to time. It is no ordinary question, a very important factor in fact, answer of which can only be available as the time passed by. Zafar Arif is showing in years, having been the teacher at the Karachi University of Altaf Hussain when he was a youngster.
The three in London, indisputably committed to their founder leader, too suffer serious handicaps of being just few in numbers. Altaf himself, is suffering from far too many ailments, including amputated left foot fingers because of diabetes-affected gangrene, and dependent heavily on medicines, plus asteroid-kind of doses. Publication of his speeches and pictures have been barred by the Lahore high court. Can they, therefore, be really effective, or the latest decision to form a rival Rabita Committee can be a mere ploy, too has to be watched carefully.
The MQM London, which is now the name given to it by the vast majority of workers, and leaders in Pakistan, calling themselves as MQM Pakistan are two different factions now. In fact the latter, under Dr Farooq Satar enjoys support and backing of the vast majority of party front rankers, parliamentarians etc, and also of the rank and file of workers, which is the real strength of a party which had brought a wholesale change in the political map of urban Sindh.
Those with Altaf in London, have been trying desperately to win over old associates in Pakistan. In fact their senator Mian Atiq from the Punjab had openly stated that he was contacted but he remained with Farooq Sattar, and would resign his parliament seat only when ordered by his leader in Pakistan. In fact stronger words have come from Farooq Sattar and Rabita Committee member Amir Khan that if Altaf, through compromise with the establishment or any others means, stages the come-back, they would bid good-bye to the organization or retire from politics.
Having said that, it would also be relevant here to mention that Mustafa Azizabadi, or Nadeem Nusrat, or even Wasey Jalil, remained unsure of themselves, not knowing whether they will support of MQM colleagues or the workforce. They seem to be hoping against hope.
But the real question relates to future of Karachi and its principal majority of Urdu speaking people. The establishment, meaning Rangers here, have turned a deaf ear till date to repeated pleas from Farooq Sattar or Pak Sarzameen Party chief Mustafa Kamal to let them have space to play their part of mobilizing their own people for a positive role in the society. There is perhaps an unkind cut, and needed instant review. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the army or its Para-military wing wants MQM to rename itself and work under new nomenclature. Nothing officially has been said about it, But even speculations do hint at something, like smoke from the fire.
Such an idea, even if remorselessly floating in someone’s mind, is bound to backfire and ought to be given up. Success lies in accepting the truth, which is abundantly available on the ground now. MQM is not just a name. It is a philosophy, a concept, and a commitment to cause. Brushing it aside, will be sheer stupidity, for it will destroy the political fibre of a society which has developed a strong culture in Karachi and the rest of Urban Sindh.
Youngsters in city’s educational institutions, from school to university levels, are yearning and burning with a desire in this overpopulated Megapolis to contribute to the development and progress of their city and country. Denying them that chance, can only be counted as a massive injustice, not only to them but to the society as a whole.
Whether MQM Pakistan or Pak Sarzameen Party of former city mayor, both can combine in the larger interest of the community which they had been working, or aiming at to elevate to ever-new heights. If that is not done within a couple of months, Altaf faction may find it easier to rehabilitate itself and then the entire exercise done so far for minus-one formula, will just vanish in thin air. It is undeniable fact that Altaf’s name itself sends powerful signals to Muhajir community. He is not an individual. He is worshipped like a demi-God. Official refusal of please from Farooq Sattar and even Mustafa Kamal, may lead to volcanic eruption. If the establishment is working, even supposedly, to fulfill its original desire of General Naseer Akhtaror or General Asif Janjua in the 90s to split the party, and allow other parties, like Jamat I Islami, PPP, and now PTI (which was not in existence then) to share the booty of 20 National Assembly seats and nearly 42 provincial assembly seats among themselves, it can only lead to a disaster.
All of these parties have now fixed their eyes on the newly developed Karachi situation, eager to grab their share in coming elections, but defeating MQM will remain a distant dream for them. That is for certain. It therefore, remains to be seen whether the coming day or re-emergence of the Altaf loyalists will be a boon or bane for Karachi. Students of political science can furnish answers to this ticklish issue from the pages of history that genuine political parties, with mass support, alone can provide stability and ensure progress of a city, town, district, province or the country. So let us not play the dirty game, and be honest to ourselves and to our country and its people.