The turf war between Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and MQM Pakistan has visibly intensified since the apparent bifurcation of MQM following a controversial anti-Pakistan speech made by Altaf Hussain on August 22 last year. At present, both political parties are actively endeavouring to win the political support of Urdu-speaking community in the Urban Sindh. Both political parties significantly differ in terms of their respective political ideology, orientation, background, standings and approach towards the crucial political issues relating to the future of Urban Sindh. These fundamental points of difference should by no means be ignored.

Presently both PSP and MQM Pakistan are publically demonstrating their political strength and popularity through holding large public rallies and processions. After showing its political muscle at the Pucca Qila ground Hyderabad last month, PSP also succeeded in holding another impressive public rally in Karachi on Sunday. In these rallies, PSP leaders, namely Mustafa Kamal and Anees Qaimkhani, have explained their political agenda as well as future course of action. Indeed it is feeling good to many Pakistanis to hear pro-Pakistan slogans and seeing national flags waving in the PSP rallies. In fact, we had become quite accustomed to witness anti-Pakistan, anti-establishment, parochial and divisive rhetoric in political rallies in the urban Sindh, especially the Karachi.

In a period of less than one year, PSP has somehow succeeded in making MQM’s political castle significantly crumble, which had already become quite vulnerable after the political irrelevance of its indispensable leader Altaf Hussain. At the moment, it is rather immaterial whether or not the military establishment is morally or materially supporting PSP since the more important thing being that the PSP is helping stabilize the volatile city of Karachi by successfully filling the political vacuum left by the gradual disintegration of MQM. The military dictators like General Zia-ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf have been blamed for nurturing MQM to achieve their selfish political objectives. However, now the military establishment has substantially rectified its institutional blunders by indiscriminately curbing the political mafias in Karachi. The politicos should also play their due role to further improve things in this long-suffering city. They should sincerely address the underlying woes of long-deprived inhabitants of Urban Sindh by empowering and mobilizing the local government institutions. Similarly, the discriminatory and unjust quota system should also be abolished in the province.

Target killing and extortion have been the pretty common phenomena in Karachi since MQM was founded in mid-1980’s. So far, tens of thousands Karachiites have been mercilessly killed in the streets of Karachi in broad daylight. Besides a number of high-profile assassinations, MQM has been blamed for every major criminal incident in Karachi from May 12, 2007 Karachi carnage to 2012 Baldia Town factory inferno incident. Similarly, MQM has frequently been charged with having links with Indian intelligence agency RAW. At times, the individuals like PPP’s former minister Zulfiqar Mirza, SSP Rao Anwar, BBC journalist Owen Bennett-Jones have accused MQM of receiving funds from India. Similar allegations have also been levelled against MQM by its own former leaders and workers like Mustafa Kamal, Anees Qaimkhani, Saulat Mirza and Tariq Mir etc.

Once the cat was finally out of the bag after the anti-Pakistan speech made by Altaf Hussain in August last year, it was being expected that the federal Government would take strict legal measures against the MQM. Section 15 of the Political Parties Order, 2002 empowers the federal government to dissolve a political party by making a deceleration in the Official Gazette if it “satisfied that a political party is foreign-aided party, or has been formed or is operating in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, or is indulging in terrorism”. However, within 15 days of making such a declaration, the federal government has to refer this matter to the Supreme Court of Pakistan, which can conclusively determine and finally decide this matter. Regrettably, the federal government neglected to perform its legal duty vis-à-vis MQM. Later, it welcomed the formation of MQM Pakistan when a number of MQM legislator dissociated them from MQM chief Altaf Hussain. Thus, once again, MQM managed to survive politically in Pakistan, thanks to our well-preserved political expediencies.

Scotland Yard has dropped the investigation against MQM chief Altaf Hussain in money-laundering case on account of insufficient evidence. On the other hand, an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Karachi has directed the prosecution to approach Federal Interior Ministry to bring Altaf Hussain back to Pakistan through Interpol. This court is hearing the criminal charges against Altaf Hussain in the wake of his August 22 provocative and treasonous speech. Primary owing to lack of required resolution, the federal government is unlikely to approach the Interpol to arrest Altaf Hussain and bring him back to the country. A large number of FIR’s have been registered against him in Pakistan, but the government never seriously bothered to legally proceed against him. Instead, it has always been looking towards the Scotland Yard to apprehend and punish him in UK.

There are many reasons to believe that both ruling political parties, the PML-N and PPP, would politically prefer MQM Pakistan over PSP. MQM is part and parcel of current political status quo in the country. Therefore, all these political parties are the joint beneficiaries of this political system. MQM Pakistan suits to both ruling political parties since it possesses an ‘inherent capacity’ of simultaneously becoming a friendly opposition party as well as a reliable coalition partner. Therefore, it is quite natural that both PML-N and PPP would actively try to rescue and politically rehabilitate MQM Pakistan to the disadvantage of PSP.

PSP is widely being perceived as an establishment-backed political party. This is another strong reason that both ruling political parties would oppose PSP. There has been a troubled relationship between these political parties and the military establishment for some time. This sort of civil-military cold war was best observed throughout the tenure of General Raheel Sharif as the COAS. So the PPP Co-Chairmen Asif Ali Zardari had to leave Pakistan after delivering an anti-establishment speech on June 16, 2015. Now if this situation persists, then the MQM-PSP confrontation would become another source of civil-military tension in Pakistan in future.

Instead of always trying to equate MQM and PSP, the media should objectively evaluate both parties to help people identify true and sincere political leaders rather than blindly following them as they have been doing in the past. If the major ruling political parties in the country do not adequately fix the political conundrum of urban Sindh, the Urdu-speaking community of this area would eventually itself answer this political question by choosing a new political leadership.