Muttahida Qaumi Movement – Pakistan’s (MQM-P) quid pro quo with the Prime Minister seems to have fallen through. The MQM-P voted for Shahid Khaqqan Abbasi in the Prime Ministerial elections with the explicit hope of securing a development package for Karachi, and more importantly, permission to reopen the unit offices closed by the law enforcement agencies following Altaf Hussain’s controversial speech on 22 August 2016.
Of course, the party’s support wasn’t crucial – Mr Abbasi would have become Prime Minister without it – but upon election he seemed quite amenable to the proposal; until a greater office intervened. Upon his recent visit to Karachi the new Prime Minister did announce a RS25 billion development package, but informed the MQM that on the “recommendations of the security apparatus actively engaged in restoring normality to the city”, the offices cannot be reopened. And while this “security apparatus” includes provincial and federal law enforcement agencies, what the phrase really points to is the Rangers, and by extension, the armed forces.
On initial viewing the security apparatus’ instincts seem understandable – why reverse all the progress that has been made in the city. However, on closer inspection there seems to be little solid footing for this assertion. What do unit offices have to do with security? Their closure might have been useful for putting pressure on the MQM to renounce their renegade leader – which they have done – but a year later is their closure still necessary?
The answers presented by the security apparatus to these questions are disjoined and underwhelming. Some officials claimed that resumption of such unit offices could lead to collection of sacrificial hides during Eid-ul-Azha for the party and allow them to generate funds from means “they applied in the past”. For one, Eid-ul-Azha is over, so this argument becomes invalid, and more importantly there is nothing illegal about a party collecting hides to finance its activities. A far as criminal activity is concerned; no link has been shown with unit offices and an increase in crime.
Similarly asking the MQM – P to do without unit offices because no other political party has such an extensive network of offices is illogical – there is no limit on the kind of infrastructure a party wants to maintain, certainly not in comparison to another.
The real problem here continues to be MQM-P believed association with Altaf Hussain despite their best efforts to portray otherwise. The party has tried a political solution and failed; perhaps it is time for a legal one, as there seems to be only an executive action by the government that is keeping these offices closed.