When the pressure was ratcheted up, MQM supremo Altaf Hussain came out in his true colours, and made the demand for separation of Karachi that he had insisted his party would not make. However, it had been predicted that the tinkering just before the election by the PPP with the idea of dividing the Punjab, purely for political reasons, would yield a demand for the splitting of Sindh. Altaf made this demand on Sunday during his telephonic address to a gathering at MQM headquarters in Karachi, when he said that the ‘establishment’ should detach Karachi if it did not like its mandate. There had been numerous calls for repolling in Karachi, with various political parties joining in the demand, while the Jamaat Islami went as far as to boycott the poll. Apart from the allegations against the MQM, there were also reports of irregularities committed by the polling staff, specially about the start of polling, and the unavailability of polling material, that lent strength to protesters demanding polling. The Election Commission of Pakistan has ordered partial repolling in one Karachi national constituency because of this. It should be noted that Altaf and the MQM take the electoral process very seriously; it should not be forgotten that Altaf faced a contempt notice from the Supreme Court over its order for the delimitation of just one national constituency.

However, a repolling demand, which has not yet been accepted, should not contain a counter-demand for separation. The MQM supremo and his party could learn this, as well as other lessons, from a similar demand in Lahore, expressed in much the same fashion, by a protest. In Lahore, the demand by PTI activists is for repolls in two constituencies, including the one where party chief Imran Khan was himself standing. The PML-N, which won those seats, has not demanded a new province, or spoken of the ‘establishment’, even though it is poised to form the national government, and not merely be, like the MQM, a junior partner in one provincial government.

The MQM must not give in to the temptation of playing politics at the level of provincialism, which was shown by Mr Hussain when he congratulated Mian Nawaz Sharif on his party’s win, deriding it as being representative of the Punjab. This shows that it has much ground to cover before it can understand that it's appeal at the national level will not come from snide remarks and derisive compliments. Unless it wants to alienate voters in its own stronghold of Karachi, it should bow to the will of the people rather than resisting just demands that are made. Mr Hussain’s statement is also unhelpful in the task of government formation, which is an in auspicious start to the way their participation will be seen in the new term.