The year 1997 witnessed a landmark development in the political history of Pakistan when MQM embarked on a transformation from an ethnic political organisation to a national mainstream party. Resultantly, it changed its name from Mohajir Qaumi Movement to Muttahida Qaumi Movement and tried to come out of ethnic chauvinism, aiming to protect the rights of rather oppressed classes. It reoriented its goals and objectives by expanding its base embracing all across Pakistan. The makeover was viewed as a well calculated move to come into the national mainstream politics with a novel agenda. The MQM’s journey from an ethnic group to a mainstream national party held benefits for the country virtually segregated into many segments of religions, sects, races and languages. Its slogan was uplifting the beleaguered classes from the brutal and medieval rule of centuries old feudal tyranny. It was seemingly a promising sign in political arena of Pakistan. The party formulated new guiding principles around the broad spectrum of national and collective identity.The comparative study of its goal and objective before and after the transformation helped the party to spread it wings wide across the nation. That was complete paradigm shift in policy. The party gesture and posture completely appeared opposite to its previous position setting  new agenda: greater provincial autonomy, constitutional amendments in line with the 1940 Lahore Resolution for more powers to provinces, land reforms, opposing feudalism, human development throughout Pakistan and cohesive policies for economic growth. It provided the main impetus for change. It is clearly indicated from the fact that the goals of the party before transformation was only restricted to protect and serve the interests of Urdu-speaking community. This limited role of party cause impinges to become a national party. It evoked implacable hatred in the mind of fellow citizens with different ethnic identity who allegedly pointed fingers at the MQM for fostering hatred in the country.After 1997, the MQM declared itself as a de-ethnicised organisation, focusing on greater cause of representing the oppressed and middle classes emphasising on provincial autonomy coupled with formulation of comprehensive strategy for economic growth. It employed many strategies to its organisational structure in order to become a mainstream party; giving a clear-cut message: that it is no more an Urdu-speaking party, but representing everyone in Pakistan. In the past, the MQM showed its strength in absorbing all components of different parties working for the cause of Urdu-speaking communities under the patronage of Mohajir Qaumi Movement. If they could bring different and conflicting ethnic groups at one platform - they could do the same job at national level by making inroads outside of Karachi and Sindh. This essence is reflected in the coordination committee members, which has the representation from all provinces as a symbolic gesture.In efforts to pursue its agenda of becoming a mainstream political party, the MQM is still struggling to get rid of its past image. It is not being able to think out of the box beyond the interests of its core support base: Urdu-speaking community in Sindh. The MQM still banks on this community for electoral success. The party has multifaceted character. On the one hand, it talks about provincial autonomy, modernisation and harmony among ethnic communities, while, on the other, it does not step up efforts to consolidate its political support among other communities. Although MQM is widely acknowledged as the most disciplined and organised among political parties, yet it is a general impression that the party has no tendency to bar dissent being voiced within its ranks.The party has been the key ally of coalition governments oscillating from PPP to PML-N to PML-Q and enjoyed the portfolio of many ministries, but could not make any significant mark in their respective ministries. It has been in the corridors of power, but looked very bleak on its principle stands. It remains unsuccessful to get itself recognised as a mainstream party. As a part of the PPP led-coalition, the MQM, at regular intervals threatened to quit the government and then revised its decision and rejoined it. The party decided to withdraw its support from the federal government on the issue of massive increase in the prices of petroleum products, declaring it tantamount to cruelty. It quitted the federal cabinet by sending resignations of its two ministers. Later, it rejoined the cabinet in spite of the fact that petroleum prices kept on increasing, but the party remained stuck to treasury benches. Finally, it parted its ways from ruling coalition just before the last session of Sindh Assembly that merely proved a traditional gimmick to contest the election while being in opposition. The MQM needs to buckle down and adopt a back to basic approach. In his recent speech with his workers, Mr Altaf Hussain has left many questions unanswered and has taken the nation by utter surprise. It appeared to be the repeat telecast of its formative years, harvested new allegations. Leadership of the party should realise that other than the expression of hot rhetoric nothing substantive can be gained by playing emotional cards. The MQM as the only largest urban-based middle-class party, needs to understand the fact that having a great name means having a deal of responsibility. The party has long ago discarded its anti-establishment and anti-Punjabi rhetoric. It should not be now central to the party’s political discourse. There is no second thought that MQM has come a long way, but still a long way to go. The party has gone from strength to strength: escalated its base and diversify party’s membership beyond Sindh, established offices in all provinces and fielded candidates in many constituencies of other provinces. But it should be more vocal on issues of national concerns: Kashmir conflict .The party kept mum on the issue of loadshedding faced by Punjab. Now, it is the high time for the party to come out of their electoral constituencies and draw broader national issue and policy. The ECP confession of rigging in the recent election in Karachi put a question mark on the credibility of the elections. It also ordered repolling in Karachi’s NA-250, PS-112 and 113. It has failed to assess the seriousness of the situation and in taking adequate preventive measure. The writ of the state should be in place to respond to the situation. The multi-parties highlighted the issue as there has had been no inquiry so far. It is tragic representation of sorry state of affairs. Just a step inside Karachi you will get to know what the talk is all about. The gravity of the matter can be gauged from the fact that all political forces, except PPP, pointing the fingers at the MQM for manipulating the election results. The MQM is accused of having rigged the elections. There have been the voices emanating from all rival parties putting the role of MQM under question. They are claiming to have empirical evidence in this regard. If the allegation has merit it must be substantiated by the evidence. If the dots are connected the true picture can be drawn. On the other hand, the MQM is countering the fact by being described itself the victim of the same. These allegations and counter-allegations have been proved counterproductive for the democratic process. The MQM has been struggling against the odds and now it is the right time for the party to keep its head above the water and come up with a clean chit. The PTI has staged sit-in protesting against alleged rigging in the metropolis. The Karachi is already facing a host of problems and if the situation is not addressed then any untoward incident is just waiting to happen. There is already a divide along the ethnic and sectarian lines. It would be an attempt to dilute the federation. Karachi is the economic hub of Pakistan. Any vacuum created by political parties can propagate the extremists’ dogma to it full advantage. To safe Karachi is to safe Pakistan.
The writer is working in the Learning Resource Centre of the University of Management and Technology.