Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief, Altaf Hussain, is never one to shy away from speaking his mind, even during instances when not doing just that appeared to be the wiser choice. Being thousands of miles away from his supporters for the last many years has not hampered his ability to effectively communicate with them. Far too many times, his addresses have made headlines for all the wrong reasons, leaving party officials in the country burdened with the enormous task of making sense of it all before the media and everyone else. On Friday, Mr Altaf Hussain did it… again.

While addressing a public gathering in Hyderabad, the MQM Chief demanded a separate province for the Urdu-speaking community of Sindh. He called for an end to the supposed discrimination against the “Muhajirs”, and threatened that the idea of a separate country altogether could not be ruled out, if grievances were not addressed. Foreseeing a bloody struggle for some odd reason, Mr Altaf assured of his supporters’ resolve and readiness. He also took the opportunity to remind everyone that Gen (r) Pervez Musharraf also belonged to the “Muhajir community”, and dubbed his trial to be unjust, although for reasons other than the former dictator’s ethnic roots.

The demand for a separate province should not be a taboo subject in Pakistan. One of the reasons that it is so is due to the fact that it has come under the wrong pretexts, mostly to serve political interests. It is about time that the MQM makes up its mind about what it aspires to be: a mainstream political party or an ethnic, urban-centric organization? It is unfortunate that Mr Altaf feels the need to resort to ethnic, divisive politics to charge his support base during times of political difficulty. The people of this country shouldn’t have to pay for the developments in the ongoing murder and money laundering investigations in London.

A case for new provinces in the country can be made, of course, but on administrative grounds. We must move on from drawing lines and creating divide on the basis of ethnicity. If the upcoming Local Government elections that have stirred these strong emotions inside the MQM Chief, then surely, he is well-equipped to resolve matters with ‘enemies’ in Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) without threatening secession, as he did on countless occasions during the previous collation government in the Sindh and the center. Hopefully, sanity will prevail.