The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has leveled some serious allegations against the Rangers. Farooq Sattar did not mince words in his press conference on Sunday, and categorically accused the Rangers of torturing MQM workers imprisoned in Karachi Central Jail. What were once vague allusions of attempting to coerce the workers to change their loyalties have now become direct verbal attacks against the paramilitary force. This is not likely to go down well with the Rangers, and the reaction from this is likely to have an adverse impact on the situation in Karachi in the near future.

MQM’s violent history is an open secret. Apart from extremist terrorism, political parties and their militant wings have wreaked havoc in the past in Karachi. The turf wars between MQM and MQM-H in particular made rivers of blood run through the streets of Karachi. It is naive to assume that all those involved have simply vanished into thin air. MQM still retains individuals from its checkered past, and if those people are being brought to justice, that is not a problem. However, torture is a separate issue entirely, and the Rangers need to prove that this accusation is baseless.

The move to hold a press conference to openly dish out vitriol against the Rangers was not done heedlessly. Farooq Sattar directly addressed the Interior Minister, the Prime Minister and the Sindh Chief Minister; this is a two-pronged attempt to save the party from the reaction expected from openly calling out an arm of the establishment. On one level, it is a cry for help from two political parties, reminding them of the need to protect one of their own. The second is a very basic request for the government to intervene as a third party.

MQM continues to be in the headlines with increasing frequency after the return of Mustafa Kamal. As always, the content behind the news is all over the place, with a cleaning drive one second and accusations against the paramilitary force the next. The public has a hard time in trying to discern the truth from the fodder which is why this claim too, might not be taken too seriously. While torturing political workers is not unheard of in this country, It is too early to judge at this point, at least until MQM shares some evidence to put weight behind these accusations. Until then, the burden of proof lies on Farooq Sattar and the rest of the leadership to provide substance for this serious accusation.