End of a dark chapter?



M Ziauddin

VERY early in its formative phase the MQM had turned into an entity best described as the fictional character, Dr Jeckyll and Mr Hyde created by Scottish author, Robert Louis Stevenson. A split personality. Part political, part Mafioso.
There were genuine political reasons for its coming into being in early 1980s as a political entity. But the plank on which it was raised had an inbuilt ‘sun-set’ clause in its political philosophy. And in order to sustain this ‘sun-set’ clause for all times to come—in other words to sustain its Mohajor appeal the Party leadership was compelled to underpin the MQM with a strong Mafioso wing.
In this exercise it was encouraged with all kinds of assistance by the then President General Ziaul Haq’s regime which after having physically eliminated ZA Bhutto from the political scene had very badly wanted to wrench out of PPP’s hands its political base –Sindh—by hook or crook. Having failed to achieve its objective through its highly oppressive actions including the use of gun-ship helicopters against the PPP workers and its sympathizers, the regime saw in the shape of MQM an ‘ideal’ entity perfectly suited to be used as a political counter-foil against the PPP in the province of Sindh.
In those days, the PPP activists in Sindh used to be officially branded as Raw agents (as it is being officially propagated against the MQM activists currently) and the MQM goons were given full official assistance and openly as well to eliminate these ‘ anti-state’ elements politically as well as physically. This open official encouragement and endorsement to use its Mafioso muscle against the PPP was treated by the MQM as an official license to kill.
Since then every time the establishment had wanted to use the MQM to promote its political objectives, the MQM had willingly obliged. In fact Chaudhry Nisar, the current Interior Minister of the PMLN government is on record having confessed that during the non-confidence move against the first Benazir government the then COAS General Aslam Beg had delivered the MQM to the opposition.
When the establishment wanted to bring back Benazir Bhutto after having ousted the first Nawaz government, the MQM was asked not to contest the National Assembly seats in urban Sindh to enable the PPP to mobilize enough NA seats to elect Benazir as the PM. The MQM obliged by boycotting the NA elections on some flimsy ground but whole heartedly participated in the provincial elections because the establishment had wanted to keep the PPP pinned down in Sindh so as to make it impossible for PM Benazir to rule the country in accordance with her Party’s political vision and instead follow the establishment’s political road map.
The first clash between the MQM and the establishment occurred when the successor COAS of General Aslam Beg, COAS General Asif Nawaz set about in 1992 trying to eliminate the Party because he was convinced that Altaf Hussain had tried to persuade the then PM Nawaz Sharif to give extension to Aslam Beg instead of promoting General Asif Nawaz.
By the time it was time for the next general elections, General Asif Nawaz had passed away and his successor led by the then President Ghulam Ishaq Khan found himself rehabilitating the MQM because GIK in order to keep Nawaz out of power needed to bring Benazir back but without giving her enough space to rule on her own.
It was now PM Benazir Bhutto’s interior minister Naseerullah Baber who set about eliminating the MQM. The Army was bunkered in Karachi when Benazir returned to power for the second time. She replaced the army contingent with Naseerullah Baber’s police and there began a running battle between the Karachi police and the MQM workers. This had continued until about the time Benazir was ousted from power by President Farooq Ahmed Khan Laghari.
The second Nawaz government came to power with the MQM rehabilitated as the establishment had wanted the Party’s votes to keep the PPP out of even the provincial government. But the partnership did not last long as the murder of Hakim Saeed created a serious wedge between the PMLN and the MQM and once again the MQM found itself at the receiving end.
By this time, the MQM Chief was well settled in London and he was effectively leading the party from there mainly using the Party’s militant wing—the Mafioso members, led by what was euphuistically called the sector in charges directly answerable to Altaf. These goons were also ordered to keep a close watch on the Rabita Committee members lest anyone of them tried to betray the Party.
By the time General Musharraf was appointed the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) after having obtained resignation from COAS General Jehangir Karamat for proposing the formation of a National Security Council, the relations between the then establishment and the MQM had deteriorated seriously and once again the Party was on the run. It was about this time when at a meeting between some senior journalists of the country and the then COAS General Musharraf that the latter on being asked for his opinion on Altaf Hussain retorted without batting an eye-lid: He is a traitor, period.
But then as soon as the second Nawaz government was sent home by General Musharraf once he staged a successful military coup, the MQM was once again rehabilitated. When asked at a post -coup press conference why he had seen it fit to release those hundreds of MQM workers accused of murder and arson Musharraf rejected the accusations describing them as concocted as in his opinion the accused had never indulged in such crimes.
Now the MQM was once again in the good books of the establishment. This time they were given the interior ministry of Sindh which allowed them to recruit their sympathizers in the provincial police force. Meanwhile, the Mayor ship of the city had also been captured by the MQM. This was the period when Karachi saw for the first time after many years an extended phase of peace and tranquility.
But this phase, however, came to an abrupt halt on May 12, 2007 when the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry arrived in Karachi to address the bar. He could not leave the airport because the city was closed down on the orders of the Interior Ministry of the province and a killing spree was going on in the city. This was how the MQM paid back to the military ruler for all the concessions and the indulgences Musharraf had allowed them since he came to power, especially since 2002.
During his period in exile in UK, Nawaz Sharif had arranged an All Parties Conference in London in 2007. A resolution was passed by the APC vowing not ever to enter into a coalition with the MQM to form a government in future. But the PPP added a note of dissent saying MQM was a political reality of urban Sindh and the PPP disagreed with the resolution.
The late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was perhaps trying to make it impossible for the establishment to use the MQM against her if she ever came to power in future as she had neutralized PMLN by signing the Charter of Democracy with Nawaz. Because of the CoD Nawaz refused to join in any conspiracy in toppling the PPP government elected in 2008. However, the MQM did not reciprocate the reconciliation policy of the PPP and kept the government on its toes all the time. And as soon as the tenure of its Mayor ended in December 2009, the city once again degenerated into the usual killing field from January 2010 onwards. The aim appeared to be either we rule urban Sindh without sharing it with anybody or we don’t let anyone else govern it.
Currently, the party seems to be once again on the wrong side of the establishment. This appears to be the last round as during the last three years, the ongoing Rangers’ operation in Sindh against militancy appears to have neutralized the MQM’s militant wing. And it was perhaps a panicky Altaf, who said what he said in his address to his shrinking followers on Monday (22nd August, 2016). It was but natural for the local Rabita Committee headed by Farooq Sattar, one of the oldest members of the MQM, to disassociate with Altaf’s diatribe.
There is a possibility that in case the Rangers have completely eliminated Altaf’s goons from the MQM, the local Rabita Committee would be able to take over the Party without the fear of being taken to task as was done in 2013 when the goons had thrashed the Rabita Committee members for not putting up a good show in 2013 polls.
Also, the UK government needs to take care of its citizen Altaf and stop him from fomenting violence in the largest commercial city of a friendly country. The British Imran Farooq. The UK government needs to take to its logical conclusion the investigations into his alleged money laundering activities as well as his alleged involvement in the murder of Dr Imran Farooq.

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