Action against MQM offices may be okay, but Rangers need to exercise restraint

Salahuddin Haider

Viewed through legal prism, Rangers’ action to seal or demolish MQM offices in Karachi and Hyderabad, can be fully justified, for most of them were located on parks, and playgrounds, but the Rangers too must exercise restraint and not allow public criticism to spoil its reputation.
And old maxim that power had the tendency to be corrupted, and absolute power leads to unrestrained actions, holds even true today also and must be pursued with care.
There is no doubt that MQM had misused its authority when in power to set up its offices in parks and playgrounds, meant solely for public recreation. It had even set up its political offices in city government departments and several other departments.
The Rangers, after sealing of the party’s nerve centre “90”, or the Rabita Committee headquarters of Khursheed Memorial Hall, has been somewhat mercilessly shutting off or demolishing its sector and unit offices in Sindh’s two principal cities where MQM had held control over voters, and winning parliamentary polls uninterruptedly.
True, it acted under orders from the chief minister, who, though captain of the provincial apex committees, has actually been a mere rubber stamp. The shots in reality were called by the army-led Para-military force.
Even then, the new Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, perceives things differently, acts rather quickly, compared to the lethargic predecessor, and must have given orders to precede against the MQM offices after careful consideration.
He also, according to media reports, has shown remarkable restraint in authorising the Rangers, which meant that at no stage, the Para-military force was given a blank cheque. It must therefore be prudent in action, and remains strictly within limits to proceed against a party which has shown a new face to the people after the August 22 fiasco. True, Altaf Hussain, has been rather careless in his utterances, and even on August 24 delivered a speech at New York, whereby he apologised to Hindus for the 1947 divide, and appealed for help from Israel, India and Afghanistan to “liberate the people of Karachi or Mohajir followers” from arbitrary action against them.
That does not however mean that all those connected with the party must be penalised for poor judgement or action of a single individual. Dr. Farooq Sattar’s press conference of August 23 was a unique phenomenon. The voice of dissent had emerged from within the party for the first time, which was inconceivable for 37 years of MQM history.
That Sattar had on his side, saner, sensible, educated, and clean colleagues with him deserved space to pursue the policies he and his associates had dared chose for themselves. Studied conversely it meant that MQM for the first time, had taken a bold step to liberate itself from London’s hold.
The Corps Commander, being the military chief for Sindh, and the Rangers should keep that in mind and allow space to the people who want to pursue principled politics, and bury forever the policy or the trend, witnessed quite often, in the form of threats, or coercion.
They need to be encouraged. To organise themselves, they need a central place. Khursheed Memorial Hall, or the 90, or sectors and unit offices, were all properties registered with MQM Pakistan, which now need to be encouraged. The two of them, 90 and Khursheed Memorial Hall, should now be unsealed.
Politics has been the live wire of democratic societies. That factor should never be lost sight of. Discouraging political parties to play their role of mobilising support for their policies and perceptions on crucial issues would be disastrous.
Hopefully the army and the Rangers will keep that in mind and not pursue unrestrained policies. That would indeed be damaging for the country, struggling since long to find its mooring.
Police said they would demolish 32 more party offices of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and concerned police stations have been tasked to carry out the operation.
According to the documents these party offices are situated within the precincts of Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Ferozabad, New Town, P.I.B, Soldier Bazaar, Jamshed Town and Aziz Bhatti police stations and constructed on government lands illegally. The documents further reveal that within the limits of Mubina Town, MQM have constructed four party offices, while within the limits of Ferozabad police station, three offices exist. The party has six offices in the limits of Brigade police station.
According to government sources, 32 sector and unit offices of MQM have been constructed on lands which were for the use of schools, public parks and Water Board. The party has also its office in a government park near Do Talwar of Clifton for its Defence and Clifton Residents Committee, which is illegal in the eyes of the law.

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