ISLAMABAD - Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain cannot be labelled as a traitor just for a statement or an alleged email, Senator Ilyas Ahmed Bilour, senior leader of MQM’s arch rival, Awami National Party (ANP), said.

“These allegations were slapped on us in the past. We were declared traitors, agents of India, Russia and the United States. This approach should end now,” he said, while talking to The Nation. He added, “Altaf Hussain is a politician and politicians do make mistakes. You cannot term someone traitor for a single statement or a letter”.

Senator Bilour said the recent controversies might damage MQM, but it would come back. “It may not be as strong as it used to be, but it will be back. You can’t eliminate this party. It is a reality. At the moment they are being cornered,” he observed.

He warned the government to avoid taking any action against Hussain as it would boost MQM rather than denting its popularity. “A case or two in courts should be enough if they are so desperate to take action. Any more action than this will only help MQM,” said the ANP veteran.

Bilour said the operation in Karachi was belated, but was still bringing positive results. “The extortion mafia’s network is being broken. MQM’s terror has subsided and law and order is improving,” he averred.

“They have arrested our people too for carrying arms but they should know a Pathan always has weapons. This is our culture. We will not ask them to spare anybody involved in crimes, but someone possessing arms should be investigated because most of them are law-abiding citizens,” he maintained.

“We want this party to stay, but I don’t think they will be the same force after this operation,” predicted the seasoned politician. Coming back to Altaf Hussain, the senator said, “These are political issues and must be sorted out politically. We should not rush to conclusions.” MQM is in hot water after a series of controversies. First, Altaf asked other countries, including India, to help end the ‘bloodshed of Mohajirs; then the email controversy erupted and the party was found to have sought help from dozens of nations to intervene over the alleged forced disappearances of MQM workers. The letter, also sent to the Indian High Commission in Islamabad, sought support to find four ‘missing’ workers of the party.

The letter states that Pakistani security agencies had detained 12 party workers while on their way to Hyderabad from Karachi, adding eight of them had been released, but four were still in custody. After condemnation by the rival parties, MQM said it had written letters to the embassies of 55 countries and not just to India to raise voice for its ‘missing’ workers.

On Thursday, the Indian High Commission denied receiving any email from MQM, purportedly written by Nasreen Jalil. However, the Indian HC spokesman said the letter might have been dispatched through courier service. The spokesman said he could only confirm the media reports after receiving the email or the letter.

On Friday, an anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Quetta issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for Altaf Hussain for speaking out against Pakistan Army and other defence institutions.

The Sindh Assembly adopted a joint resolution, denouncing controversial speeches of Altaf Hussain. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), a former ally of MQM, also signed the resolution along with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional. It is the first time in seven years when PPP endorsed an anti-Altaf Hussain resolution. The MQM tabled resolutions the same say in the Sindh Assembly, targeting PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari and PTI chief Imran Khan, in a tit-for-tat response.

The resolutions claim Zardari and Imran Khan have recently given controversial remarks against the military and national institutions.

Talking to The Nation, MQM lawmaker Mehboob Alam said the MQM does not need a certificate of patriotism from any party. “If they think we are traitors, let them think so. We know we love our country and respect our army,” he contended.

Alam said MQM, on the directions of Altaf Hussain, had staged a rally in support of the army in the recent past, which proved its love for them. “Altaf Hussain’s words may be bitter, but he is a true Pakistani. Our workers are being arrested without any reason. Of course, we would be angry,” he explained.

About the email to the Indian High Commission, he said, “We did seek other countries’ help, but the email was also to India erroneously. It was a mistake, and we are investigating this. We can never think of Indian intervention in Pakistan’s internal issues,” the member of the National Assembly said.

Alam said MQM was on the forefront for rescue efforts in the flood-hit areas. “We have been working shoulder-to-shoulder with the army in the affected areas. This is our country and we are proud of our army. We are bitter only due to the discrimination,” the MQM leader added.

The legislator recalled that his party had sought ab operation against the outlaws in Karachi. “We never supported extortionists. Like others we also want a peaceful Karachi,” he asserted.