Maneuvering for Mohajirs

November 15, 2017

Primarily aimed at preventing the ‘Mohajir vote-bank’ from being divided in the Urban Sindh, the long-anticipated political alliance between Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) was formally announced by the heads of both political parties in a joint press conference in Karachi last week. Both parties agreed to join hands to contest forthcoming general elections under “one manifesto, one symbol and one party”. Yet in another press conference on the very next day, MQM-P Chief Farooq Sattar readily announced his decision to end this newly-forged alliance owing to strong opposition from his party’s rank and file. Thus, this much-hyped political alliance simply proved to be mere a damp squib. During Farooq Sattar’s press conference, we also saw the MQM’s typical ‘resignation melodrama’. This sort of first-resign-then-retract drill has been a signature style of former MQM Chief Altaf Hussain. Indeed, Farooq Sattar somehow outperformed his ex-boss by successfully concluding this melodrama in just an hour or so.

In the political lexicon of Urban Sindh, the phrase ‘Mohajir nationalism’ also has some negative connotations. So, after abandoning the parochial and communal politics, PSP leaders came forward with a pro-Pakistan political agenda. Similarly, MQM-P, after denouncing Altaf Hussain in the wake of infamous anti-Pakistan speech made by him on August 22, last year, also ostensibly gave up the purely ethnolinguistic politics. However, during the recent PSP-MQM(P) merger episode, the ‘Mohajir nationalism’ just took center stage. Both parties joined hands apparently for the common good of Mohajir community. Later, both parties also parted ways for this single purpose after doubting each other’s pro-Mohajir credentials. Farooq Sattar also hinted at reviving the movement for the Mohajir province. In fact, this entire episode has resulted in consolidating Farooq Sattar’s political hold on the affairs of MQM-P. He has successfully used the so-called Mohajir Card to enhance his political stature among the Urdu-speaking Mohajir community in Sindh.

A section of the media in Pakistan is actively pointing the finger at the military establishment for orchestrating the PSP-MQM(P) ‘merger drama’. During his press conference, Farooq Sattar also accused the establishment of deliberately marginalising MQM in the country through a ‘political engineering’. Later, PSP leader Mustafa Kamal also openly admitted the fact that the establishment had played an important role to broker a political deal between MQM-P and PSP. Therefore, now the media and politicos are also criticising the establishment for unnecessarily interfering in the country’s politics.

Karachi is the largest city in Pakistan. This major port city is also called the financial capital of Pakistan. Therefore, the peace and order in Karachi is essentially a matter closely linked to the country’s economic stability and national security. Indeed, we can hardly afford a destabilisation in this ‘Mini Pakistan’. Consequently, the military has also a genuine interest in Karachi. The military is currently overly concerned about Karachi since a number of hostile foreign intelligence agencies are actively busy in spreading chaos and anarchy in this city. The MQM-RAW nexus is no more a secret.

While criticising the security establishment for ‘political engineering’ in Karachi, it shouldn’t be forgotten that this important state institution has played a pivotal role in stabilising Karachi by initiating an extensive cleansing operation some years ago to purge this city of criminal mafias and killing squads. Before this operation, target killing and extortion had become the most prominent feature of Karachi. Tens of thousands of Karachiites had been mercilessly killed in the streets of Karachi in broad daylight. Political mafias were openly challenging the state’s writ in the city. Certainly, in this situation, a state loses its raison d’etre as protecting the lives of its subjects is the primary responsibility of a state.

It was the responsibility of the civilian government to play an active role in stabilising Karachi once the military, along with civilian LEA’s, busted the political cum criminal mafias in the city. But regrettably, both the federal and provincial governments have been quite apathetic and disinterested towards Karachi. The Sindh government is hardly interested in improving the state of police and prosecution agencies to prosecute criminals in the courts. Consequently, owing to poor prosecution, a large number of criminals, nabbed by the LEA’s, have just managed to escape the punishment. Similarly, the federal government was also supposed to decide the political future of MQM in accordance with Sections 15 and 16 of the Political Parties Order, 2003 since a considerable evidence was available regarding the anti-state activities of MQM and its leader Altaf Hussain. In fact, owing to politicos’ apathy and indecisiveness, there is now an administrative vacuum in Karachi which is being readily tried to be filled by the establishment to prevent the city from reverting to the pre-operation chaotic state.

The Urdu-speaking community in Urban Sindh can certainly assert and promote ‘Mohajir nationalism’. It can also not be barred from demanding a separate province on ethnolinguistic basis. Indeed, subnational entities can endeavor to protect and promote their political rights within the constitutional framework. However, it is really deplorable to exploit Mohajir nationalism to articulate and pursue a narrow political agenda. In fact, since its inception, MQM has been deeply involved in numerous criminal and anti-state activities. It has freequently been blamed for having links with hostile intelligence agencies. It just introduced the damnable practices of extortion and target killing in the city. This political party readily made Karachi a hostage through the Karachi Tanzeemi (KTC) run by a large number of sector and unit in-charges. Thus, instead of doing any good service to the Urdu-speaking people, it has just added to their miseries and sufferings by turning their premier abode (Karachi) into a hell. It has been instrumental in transforming a cultured and educated Urdu-speaking community into a bunch of extortionists, killers and enemy country’s operatives.

It is really worrisome that MQM-P has also started trying to retain the nomenclature and political agenda of its mother party. The MQM-P leaders look hell-bent on reviving the ‘legacy’ of Altaf Hussain by following in his footprints. In fact, the so-called Minus One solution towards MQM has resulted in allowing MQM-P to continue as a political entity. Most of the MQM-P leaders have been close aides and active collaborators of Altaf Hussain. They have been busy in explaining the ‘actual meaning’ and ‘real context’ of the anti-state public speeches made by ‘Altaf Bhai’ in the past. Therefore, the political role and future of MQM-P should seriously be determined in accordance with the law.

The recent PSP-MQM(P) merger fiasco has essentially established that there is hardly any room for the political reconciliation or collaboration between the two parties in the near future. Noticeably, both parties are fundamentally different in terms of their political orientation, standing and agenda. Therefore, instead of unrealistically trying to collaborate with MQM-P, the PSP should look for an opportunity to forge political or electoral alliance with the like-minded political parties, especially PTI. Both PSP and PTI are anti-status quo, anti-MQM and pro-establishment parties. PTI has a considerable vote-bank in Karachi. Despite its dilapidated party organisation, poor electioneering, and strong opposition from the mighty MQM, the PTI gave a tough time to MQM after emerging as the second largest political force in the city in 2013 General Elections.

Now there is no ‘state of fear’ as such in Karachi after the fragmentation of MQM. Nevertheless, PTI and its allies couldn’t successfully mobilise its supporters and voters to defeat MQM in Karachi in the LG polls and by-elections. Since MQM-P is currently in disarray, a PSP-PTI political alliance can make a breakthrough in the next polls, provided these parties adopt a proactive electoral strategy to mobilise their voters after improving the state of their party structures at grassroot-level. It certainly requires a great deal of time and effort to undo the maladaptive ethnic indoctrination of the Urdu-speaking community. All the ethnic communities in the Urban Sindh, including Mohajirs, are interconnected and interdependent. Therefore, all the pro-change political forces in Karachi should join hands to end decades-long political status quo in the Urban Sindh.