Naveed Aman Khan
All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organization (APMSO) was founded in 1978 by Altaf Hussain (AH) under the umbrella of General Zia ul Haq to counter and crush PPP. APMSO latter on gave birth to Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) on March 18,1984. In 1997, MQM removed the term Muhajir that denoted the party roots among the Urdu-speaking community from its name and replaced it with ‘Muttahida’. MQM holds strong mobilizing potential in Karachi and Hyderabad having been the dominant political force.
The Party has kept its influence over federal governments as a key coalition partner since the late 1980s from 1988-90, 1990-92, 2002-07, 2008-13, 2013-18 and 2018 onward. However, a time came when MQM parliamentarians resigned from the NA, Senate and SA in protest against a crackdown on Party. After AH’s August 22, 2016 anti-State speech, there was military crack down on the Party. Nine Zero was sealed and its leaders including Farooq Sattar were arrested and most elected parliamentarians in MQM were forced to disassociate themselves from AH.
In its early years, MQM drew enormous crowds, the epitome of which was the rally of August 8,1986 at Nishtar Park, Karachi. Three years into its existence, MQM won1987 local body elections in Karachi and Hyderabad having several mayors win unopposed. PPP won highest number of seats in the general election of 1988 and formed a coalition government in Sindh with the help of MQM, which then had a larger mandate in urban Sindh in comparison to PPP whose majority of support came from rural Sindh. A 59-point agreement called the Karachi Accord, was signed which included statements about protection of the democratic system and political rights, urban development goals and creating objective criteria for admission to universities and colleges. Within a few months of the agreement, differences surfaced and MQM Ministers in Sindh Cabinet resigned because the agreement was not implemented. The alliance broke up on October 1989 and MQM joined hands with PPP’s opponents.
In the election of 1990, MQM emerged as the third strongest party in the country. This time, it made its alliance with PML to establish Sindh government whereas PML formed the federal government. During this time, small factions of MQM separated themselves from the main body of the Party. The largest among these factions is MQM Haqiqi which was formed by Afaq Ahmad and Amir Khan. MQM Haqiqi was formed to weaken MQM and was supported by successive federal government and establishment. In the years to come, federal governments switched between forming alliance with MQM and fighting against it to establish greater control over Karachi.
The violence gripped urban Sindh politics in the late 1980s after Zia era and finally in 1992, the erstwhile federal government of NS passed a resolution in assembly to launch a military operation in Karachi to target 72 ‘big fishes’. Operation Clean up was initiated to end terrorism in Karachi and to seize unauthorized arms. Operation Clean up, which ostensibly sought to eliminate all terrorists irrespective of their political affiliation, began in June 92. Then wrongly MQM perceived that operation is an attempt to wipe out the party altogether. Political violence erupted while MQM organized protests and strikes. The resulting lawlessness prevailed in Karachi which led to the country’s President dissolving the NA. During the 1992 violence AH left the country when a warrant was issued for him in connection with a murder. Since then, the political party has been run by AH from self imposed exile in London.
MQM boycotted the subsequent 1993 general election claiming organized military intimidation but participated in provincial elections. Then MQM secured 27 seats in SA, in comparison to its political rival PPP which won 56. This resulted in PPP forming both the provincial and federal governments. Whereas, MQM Haqiqi failed to gain any seat at federal or provincial level. Political violence gained momentum in 1993-94. During this violence, political killings were seen between MQM factions, and Sindhi nationalist groups. Former Governor Sindh Hakeem Saeed was also martyred by MQM during that time. By July 1995, more than 1,800 people had been assassinated in Karachi. In 1997, MQM boycotted the general election and changed the previously maintained name ‘Muhajir’ to ‘Muttahida’. In 2001, MQM boycotted the local body elections but in the 2002 general election MQM won 17 out of 272 NA seats. On May 12, 2007 Karachi killings also claimed dozens. In 2008, MQM won 25 NA seats while 52 seats in SA. In 2013, MQM filed a Rs. 5 b defamation suit against IK at the SHC for issuing statements against AH. In June 2014, the Police raided the London home of AH on suspicion of money laundering. Not too long when we witnessed IK pursuing AH in London Court.
But post 2018 election same IK and MQM-P became partners. Just after six-month rule of PTI, being caught up in political turmoil IK eventually has assured MQM-P of supporting the party in opening of the sealed party offices and recovering of their missing workers. Amid ‘strain’ within the ruling coalition and the joint opposition, a delegation of MQM-P called on IK at PM House.
BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal made it clear that they had extended support to the PTI but not their coalition partners. Mengal has been expressing concern over non-fulfilment of their six demands, given to the PTI leadership at the time of formation of the federal government and hinted at reviewing cooperation with the government. IK’s meeting with MQM-P is of significance in the backdrop of latest political developments, because of which PPP, PML-N and MMA, bitter foes, have joined hands against the PTI-led coalition. Offices of MQM were sealed by security forces because of its involvement in terrorism and anti-State activities. I question IK if many of missing persons involved in anti-State and terrorist activities are in the custody of security forces how can IK compromise on national security release them only for the sake of his government? State is more important or IK rule? How can IK unseal offices of MQM sealed by security forces? Will terrorism not erupt once again by doing so? Is he not compromising on national security? Will the security forces let him do such havoc?
— The writer is political analyst based in Islamabad.