Headless chicken



M Ziauddin

EVERY time the establishment had tried to play politics the result invariably has been disastrous. There are umpteen instances of such attempts made over the last 70 years and the inescapable eventual disasters.
One such glaring example of such civil-military bureaucratic attempts is the creation of the MQM by the establishment to take care of Sindh’s political anger in the aftermath of 1977 military coup and the subsequent hanging of the ousted Prime Minister ZA Bhutto.
And every time the establishment had tried to play politics with the MQM the attempt had only ended up in adding to the menace of the Muttahida.
In the last column (End of a dark chapter?) I had briefly traced the history of love-hate relationship between the MQM and the establishment since the formation of the former in the early 1980s. So, instead of recounting what has already been said about this relationship let me quickly cross over to the current situation.
Without its militant wing, the MQM is a politically inert entity because of two reasons: one, its Mohajir political plank has an inbuilt sun-set clause sustained only by the use of terror; two, without its militant wing the MQM loses its utility for the establishment.
So, the latest attempt by the establishment to tackle the political fallout of its Karachi operation essentially aimed at restoring law and order in the port city by persecuting the MQM seems to have ended up producing a headless chicken furiously running in circles trying to escape the inevitable.
The establishment in its political naivety perhaps believes that the MQM without its militant wing would remain as useful for promoting its political agendas as it has been all these years since the early 1980s.
That is perhaps why it is working on the minus one formula believing that after purifying the MQM of its militancy associated directly with Altaf Hussain the political part of the Muttahida would continue to serve as its ‘B’ team to be used for keeping Karachi out of the hands of mainstream political forces.
Like in the past the establishment is likely soon to realize that without Altaf and its terror squads the MQM would lose its political clout and become totally useless for promoting establishment’s political agenda in Sindh; and when that happens the civil-military bureaucratic conglomerate would be confronted with the choice of either abruptly stopping the operation against the MQM and allowing it to regain its terror-filled glory to be used again to marginalize the mainstream political parties or continue defanging of the MQM.
Meanwhile, the headless chicken that is running in circles splashing blood all over would further undermine the efforts to restore law and order in Karachi forcing the law enforcement agencies to use even more harsher tactics to eliminate MQM’s terror squads.
I recall that when the establishment launched the 1992 operation against the MQM creating the Haqiqi and allowing them to forcibly wrench the city of Karachi from Altaf’s grip the situation deteriorated to such a point that Pakistan Army had to be bunkered in the city to protect the Haqiqis from Altaf’s goons.
The Army was withdrawn from the city after Benazir Bhutto ordered it to return to barracks as soon as she took oath of office of the Prime Minister for the second time. She replaced the Army with her Interior Minister Naseerullah Babar’s police force. But before Babar could complete his job which was more than half finished Benazir’s second government was dismissed by President Laghari and one of the charges against her besides many more concocted ones was her ‘persecution’ of MQM.
So, the establishment when it wanted the MQM back on its side to take care of the political aftermath following the illegal dismissal of one more PPP government, it absolved the MQM of all its crimes and let it take charge of the city once again. And what happened to all those police personnel who had taken part in Babar’s operation against the MQM is a well- known horror story.
That is why one feels excessively concerned about how this operation is going to end, how long will it take to complete its job and; before completing the job hopefully it does not alienate the citizens of Karachi among whom there are only a handful whose mother tongue is Urdu because all those who came from India after partition did not come from only the Urdu speaking provinces, they came from all over India and spoke languages other than Urdu. Plus since it is the only port city of Pakistan, it has become over the years what is called a mini Pakistan and it is today the largest Pukhtoon city in the world.
Tailpiece: My friend Nusrat Javeed in his latest column ‘Barmala’ in Nawaiwaqt has quoted Saud Saher’s letter in which Saud has claimed that I was not present on the occasion when Musharraf in answer to a question by Saud had retorted; “Altaf is a traitor. Period.”
Well, I was very much there on the occasion which took place in Feb.1999. And of course I did call up Saud in 2007 because I was mentioning the dialogue for the first time in a column I was writing and I wanted to be absolutely sure so for re-confirmation I called up from London the person who had asked to question.
I always note down the salient features of off the record briefings when I return from such briefings. I took notes of this briefing as well. And before finalizing these notes I called Nasim Zehra to recount what had happened on the occasion to see if I had missed noting down anything important. And by the way if I was not present on the occasion when Musharraf said what I have claimed he said, how I would know who said what on the occasion and that it was Saud who had asked the question!
In Hamid Mir’s program I did try to correct the impression that it was not I who had asked the question but that it was Saud.

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