THE UPS AND DOWNS OF THE MQM

Situationer

M Ziauddin

Thursday, March 19, 2015 – IT SEEMS that the PPP by inviting the beleaguered party to join the Sindh government is all poised to come to the rescue of the MQM in its hour of crisis. But this would not be the first time that this is happening. When in July 2007 the PMLN sponsored All Parties Conference in London passed a resolution banning the MQM from all future coalitions, the then PPP chairperson, the late Benazir Bhutto who was physically not present at the conference but was being kept informed in real time over the internet about the proceedings by the then Information Secretary of the Party, Ms Sherry Rehman, e-mailed her dissenting note post-haste disagreeing with this particular resolution. It was at about this time that heremissary, Rehman Malik was meeting with Altaf Hussain’s emissary, Anwar Bhai at clubs in London not usually frequented by the Desis to chalk out a bilateral reconciliation scheme. She already had persuaded Nawaz Sharif to sign and seal the Charter of Democracy and was in the final stages of negotiations with the then president Musharraf on National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). She perhaps was planning to come back to a country where political differences could no more be exploited by non-political forces to divide the mainstream parties. Nor would any of the mainstream political partiesfind it politically profitable to join up the non-political forces to get a government having people’s mandate dismissed. The leadership that took over the reins of the PPP after BB’s assassination appears to have proceeded with what she was planning to do by offering the MQM to join the Sindh government after the 2008 polls and also the federal government after the PMLN had withdrawn from the coalition.

Most of the mainstream political parties have suffered at the hands of the non-political forces which since the very first day have been indulging in the game of divide and rule. The PNA was formed to get rid of Prime Minister ZA Bhutto’s government. And then the political differences between the Benazir-led PPP and the Nawaz Sharif-led PML were exploited to a point where the two parties turned into blood-thirsty opponents. And there is a general perception that the late president General Ziaul Haq helped create the MQM to suppress the legitimate hostility of the Sindhis against the military ruler who had hanged their leader.This impression was reinforced when the MQM withdrew in December 1989 from the PPP-led coalition and crossed over to the opposition joining in its bid to bring no-confidence motion against the PPP government. This is not to say that there were no genuine reasons for the emergence of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement in 1984.But once it had acquired political power in urban Sindh the MQM was seen at times to have sided with non-political forces in their tussle with mainstreampolitical parties and at times confronting these very non-political forces in what appeared to be a struggle for survival.

It is not clear how joining the PPP-led Sindh government is going to help the MQM if the evidence that the Rangers claim it has gathered were to stand in the court of law. But perhaps the PPP is doing this for its own reasons. It is perhaps trying to secure its back so as to give no room to the non-political forces to once again exploit the situation using one mainstream political against the other to create the space to walk in.Also, by inviting the MQM to join the coalition government the PPP is perhaps trying to reassure the MQM supporters that the PPP has not joined the non-political forces to oust the MQM from urban Sindh for good.

On the face of it, this time the establishment seems to have manoeuvred the Muttahida on to what appears to be a self-destructive course.This is perhaps the fourth-round between the two. The first one was enacted in 1992 when the then Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Asif Nawaz tried to break it up into two. So we had an establishment- sponsored MQM (Haqiqi) and another one,an establishment- spurned MQM (Altaf). The blood-feud between the two factions has continued unabated to this day. During this episode MQM was accused of trying to set up an independent country, Jinnahpur in parts of urban Sindh. It remained in the wilderness for some years but re-joined electoral politics in 1993 entering the PPP-led coalitiongovernment in Sindh. When it fell out with the PPP again the action against the MQM was led this time by the PPP’s interior minister the late Naseerullah Babar. In October 1998 after having remained since the 1997 polls in coalition with Nawaz Sharif’s PMLN governments both at the centre and Sindh province it once again found itself at the wrong end of the law having been accused of being involved in the murder of Hakeem Saeed. Musharraf who had called Altaf Hussain a traitor while talking to a group of journalists in early 1998 when he had not yet taken over the country, had the MQM rehabilitated in 2002 when he had become the so-called CEO of Pakistan. Since then the MQM had remained in power both at the province and the federal level for almost 11 years with just one blemish. It was accused of using violence to close down the city when on May 12, 2007 the then dismissed Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry wanted to visit Karachi to address the city Bar as part of country-wide protest against his dismissal. Now the MQM seems to have been caught in thecrossfire of operation clean up of Karachi ordered by the same CJ Chaudhry Iftikhar in September 2013. The raid on the MQM headquarters, 90 was ostensibly part of this operation. And the FIR filed on Mach 17 by the Rangers against Altaf Hussain for allegedly threatening, during a TV interview on March 11, the Rangers’ personnel for carrying out the raid seems to have compounded the seriousness of the situation for the MQM.

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