Once again, MQM leaders are attempting to fight the fire ignited by the words of their big boss in London. They want us not to believe what we heard from the horse’s mouth via satellite, and treat their tame interpretation of his wild vitriol as the whole truth. They tell us that Altaf Hussain’s threats about another bloody secession and division of Sindh on pseudo-ethnic lines were only his way of demanding a fair share for ‘mohajirs’ in the province’s resources. Their task of putting a spin on shrill long-distance speeches made by their big boss is getting harder by the day though. There is too much dirt to be brushed under the carpet.

Lately, the ‘mohajir’ card is being flashed by Altaf Hussain and his party leaders so frequently that it seems that they are winding back the clock to days when their party was still called the Mohajir Qaumi Movement. In his speech broadcast live to a public meeting in Hyderabad last Friday, he labeled Musharaf as a ‘mohajir’ and said that he was being given a hard time for that reason. Once again, he exhorted the generals to intervene, this time because the ‘mohajirs’ were being pushed against the wall, asking them, “Will you intervene when the ‘mohajirs’ start shouting for a separate state?”

It seems like the explanation spun around his statement by lesser party leaders was not considered good enough by the big boss. In a subsequent long-distance speech to a public meeting in Karachi yesterday, he personally tried to explain his violent and divisive statements, though, in the same breath, he proudly claimed that he was not obliged to explain anything to anyone other than God Almighty. His explanation, as of other MQM leaders, was nothing new either. After every outrageous outpouring by Altaf Hussain, we are told that we actually misunderstood his clear messages and that fragments of his speech were reported without their proper context. In the present instance, we are expected to ignore his threats because they had been prefixed with ifs and buts. Talk about having your cake and eating it too!

Threats are clearly delivered yet they are not threats. The MQM stands for Pakistan’s middle class but it partners as a routine with parties that it says are run by feudal lords and capitalists. It represents Pakistani citizens regardless of where they come from but it is the sole spokesperson for ‘mohajirs’. It is a democratic party but it also believes in supporting dictators and calling for the military to intervene every now and then. While being in government, it refuses to accept the responsibility for what the government does as if it is in opposition. And so on.

If the party is not confused about where it stands, its stances are surely confusing to anyone looking for consistency in its politics. It says it does not believe in terror yet manages to openly threaten PTI protesters demanding re-election in Karachi and journalists critical of the party with violence. The party treats the big boss as a pir, yet he expresses his inability to check his workers from perpetrating violence against his critics. It claims to control Karachi yet washes its hands of the mayhem gripping it. Like other parties, it says that it won’t support criminal elements operating under its wings. But unlike other parties whose workers have been rounded up, including the PPP that heads the Sindh government, it shouts ‘victimisation of mohajirs’ when its workers are arrested in the ongoing Karachi operation. Altaf Hussain says he respects the judiciary but makes contemptuous remarks for which he needs to tender an unconditional apology and beg for the court’s mercy later.

So should we accept the unconvincing explanations advanced by the party leaders to cover up the two-faced politics of the MQM and the idiom of violence in which it is couched? Should we ignore the open threats of a bloody secession and the habit of dragging in the UN on one pretext or another? Should we gloss over repeated pleadings for military intervention? Should we forget about the slurs on Jinnah’s undivided loyalty to Pakistan? Should we dismiss the clear revival of the ‘mohajir’ card as a political ploy aimed at garnering support of Urdu-speaking people? Should we take it all in our stride and treat it as part and parcel of politics? It would be naïve to do that.

After all, what does the MQM hope to achieve by using the ‘mohajir’ card, an identity fraught with many problems because of the diversity of people labeled as such and due to the smooth integration of migrants in Pakistan’s social fabric over the decades that have passed since the migration took place. Even if one were to accept that ‘mohajir’ is a valid identity after all these years, with generations born in Pakistan to those who migrated, what does the MQM hope to achieve by dividing the population of urban Sindh on these lines? Wouldn’t such politics lead the melting pot of Karachi to the verge of a civil war?

Actually, there is a real need to rationalise Pakistan’s federating units and break up the provinces carved out by the British colonialists for effective exploitation rather than self-governance. Making ethnicity, real or imagined, the basis of new provinces is a recipe for disaster though, as most parts of the country are not homogeneous. For instance, in Mohajiristan, what would be the status of the millions of Pakistanis living in Karachi who do not fit the MQM’s definition of ‘mohajir’? Clearly, for the process to benefit citizens, the federating units must be redefined on the basis of administrative efficiency.

Words of political leaders cannot, and must not, be taken lightly. Altaf Hussain has repeatedly made statements long-distance from London that have been irresponsible, to put it mildly. The subsequent explanations offered by the self-exiled big boss and his followers are never good enough. If he needs to explain the good and peaceful intentions behind his consistent volatile speeches so often, perhaps he should prepare his addresses to his followers properly and choose his words more carefully.

The writer is a freelance columnist.