For years Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has wielded a special bargaining chip in political negotiations – its power to halt Karachi with its street power. On the calls of their chief the city used to grind to a halt, the shops remained closed, public transport remained off the road and the people in their homes, partly out of loyalty to MQM and partly out of fear. Yet the present call of a strike issue by MQM to protest the killing of its workers has been largely ignored. Be it because of the Rangers presence, which insured the strike wasn’t forcibly implemented, or the growing unpopularity of the party: one fact is clear, MQM’s greatest weapon has lost its potency.

The party plans to hold a rally on Sunday, where it will try again to show that it can cause problems to the government if the government continues with its crackdown. Considering that the rally will consist of MQM workers rather than the common people of Karachi, it is slated to be a stronger show. Regardless, the party must realise that while it can inconvenience the government it lacks the strength to force its demands. Only a political compromise can solve MQMs woes at the moment; its tried and tested methods do not carry any weight, the more it tries to force them, the easier it will be for the authorities to justify their action. Before this call, MQM’s strikes were a formidable bargaining chip – now their true potential has been seen.

Regardless of the criticism on MQM the Rangers are not blameless either. The 4 workers that were killed may have been hardened criminals – terrorists even under some definitions – yet that does not mean that the extra judicial killings can be justified. Unless the Rangers rein themselves in, the conflict with MQM will only escalate, making a political compromise that much harder to achieve. It is a time for political pragmatism as much as it is a time for hard policing.