The typical cat-and-mouse game between the law enforcing agencies and MQM in Karachi continues. The recent arrest and subsequent release of MQM leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan is just the latest episode. A number of other MQM leaders and activists, including the newly-elected Karachi mayor Waseem Akhtar, have already been nabbed by LEA’s in the city. So the political future of MQM as well as the Urdu-speaking community in Sindh continues to hang in the balance.

Through his most controversial anti-Pakistan speech on August 22 this year, MQM chief Altaf Hussain put a decisive nail in the political coffin of the dying MQM. But apparently, the beleaguered political party has somehow managed to survive a suicidal attack made by his self-exiled leader through a treacherous political move. MQM’s parliamentary leadership has resurrected the nearly-dead political party with the help of ‘pro-democracy forces’ in the country. Thanks to our political expediencies once again. This time the ruling political parties, being the aspiring beneficiaries of political status quo, have acted to rescue the most controversial political party in country’s history.

Following the arrest of MQM leader Khawaja Izharul Hassan by former SSP Malir Rao Anwar last week, the knee-jerk reaction made by both federal and the Sindh governments essentially shows both ruling political parties’ concerns and sensitivity towards MQM. The CM Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah ordered the instant suspension of SSP Rao Anwar for arresting Khawaja Izharul Hassan without “taking the government into confidence”. Similarly, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif also reportedly expressed his anger over this incident. Therefore, one can take this episode in Karachi quite positively in the sense it, at least, made us feel that there was something as the federal government in the country which was also very ‘concerned’ about the city of Karachi. Earlier, the federal government had maintained a mysterious silence over Karachi affairs since the controversial remarks made by Altaf Hussain last month.

SSP Rao Anwar is best known for his anti-MQM credentials. Last year, he publicly accused MQM and its leadership of having secret links with Indian intelligence agency RAW. However, this time, SSP Rao Anwar hasn’t apparently violated any law or regulation while arresting Khawaja Izharul Hassan. In fact, under the law of the land, a police officer can arrest any individual involved in a cognisable offence even without a formal warrant of arrest issued by a criminal court. However, he is only supposed to produce the apprehended person before the area magistrate within 24 hours after such arrest. In Pakistan, parliamentarians do not enjoy any special immunity from arrest and detention.

Reportedly, a number of criminal cases have been registered against Khawaja Izharul Hassan and other MQM leaders. Therefore, the Sindh government has over-reacted to Khawaja Izharul Hassan’s arrest. This action will further lower the morale of already-demoralised Sindh police force. Ironically, the Sindh government has never exhibited similar promptness while periodically renewing the special policing power of Sindh Rangers in Karachi. Nor has it ever bothered to take appropriate legal action regarding numerous criminal cases registered against various MQM leaders and activists.

The MQM has switched itself to ‘survival mode’ since the LEA’s lunched the current Karachi operation last year. In this regard, ‘denial’ and ‘dissociation’ have been its most frequently-employed instruments. Despite the fact that MQM’s involvement has been alleged in every high-profile case in the city from May 12, 2007 Karachi carnage to 2012 Baldia Town factory inferno incident, MQM readily denies its involvement in any criminal activity, and dissociates itself from any person nabbed by the LEA. MQM has been denying and defending the criminal charges against its activist Sualat Mirza, but it instantly disowned him as soon as he was convicted by a criminal court some years ago. Now MQM has chosen to disassociate it from his founder and Quaid Altaf Hussain only to save its skin.

Target killing and extortion have been the order of the day in Karachi since MQM was founded in mid-1980’s. The city witnessed a unique culture of body bags. According to a report prepared by HRCP, some 3251 and 2909 innocent people were killed in various acts of violence in Karachi in 2013 and 2014 respectively. In a sense, the death toll in typical Karachi-related violence has outnumbered the casualties we have suffered since joining the war on terror. Sadly, we have successfully evolved some political consensus and national resolve to fight terrorism in the country, but on the other hand, we have miserably failed in significantly evaluating the issue of Karachi in its true perspective. The current pro-active military-backed Karachi operation has yet not received a matching response on the part of federal and provincial governments. Instead, their current attitude towards political developments in Karachi is quite counterproductive to this operation.

MQM has frequently been charged with having links with Indian intelligence agency RAW. Last year, BBC journalist Owen Bennett-Jones accused MQM of receiving funds from India. Similarly, the people like PPP’s former minister Zulfiqar Mirza and SSP Rao Anwar have also leveled similar allegations against MQM and its chief. Later, these allegations have been substantiated by various leaders and workers of MQM like Saulat Mirza, Tariq Mir etc. Now finally, the senior MQM party leaders, namely Mustafa Kamal and Anees Qaimkhani, have also corroborated these facts in some way. However, regrettably, the federal government has never seriously tried to martially probe these charges against MQM. Now, as the cat is finally out of the bag after Altaf Hussain’s recent anti-Pakistan speech, the federal government must take a serious notice of it. Now it must get the MQM case judicially determined by referring this matter to the Apex Court under Section 15 of political Parties Order, 2002.

The very act of apparent disassociation of ‘MQM Pakistan’ from its Quaid Altaf Hussain seems to have received federal government’s informal assent. Thus a quick-fix solution for the underlying woes of this troubled city has been devised, ignoring altogether the ground realties. This move essentially shows as if MQM Quaid Altaf Hussain was the only mess-maker within the party. And he alone has been wreaking havoc in Karachi while staying thousands miles away. And now minus-Altaf MQM would set everything right in the city. But there cannot be a bigger joke than this. In fact, MQM has no political identity and relevance independent of Alataf Hussain; the founder, the Quaid and chief ideologue of the party. Even today, he exercises a considerable control over Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, which is considered to be party’s real muscle in the city.

The birth and survival of MQM Pakistan essentially indicate towards some perpetual political expediencies in the country. The ruling political parties, PML-N and PPP, are supporting the newly-formed MQM Pakistan to preserve the political status quo in the city. It certainly suits to their narrow political interests. Obviously they can’t politically tolerate or support to the recently-formed Pak Sarzameen Party, whch is generally believed to be backed by the so-called establishment. They are probably seeing the MQM Pakistan as a potential counter-weight to PSP in Urban Sindh.

Surely, the current political expediencies vis-à-vis MQM would get Karachiites nowhere. It would only add to the miseries of both ordinary Karachiites and Urdu-speaking community in the city. Observably, now MQM, as apolitical party, is in no comfortable position of morally and legally representing the Urdu-speaking community to adequately redress their grievances. Obviously MQM leaders can’t do anything good for their community while staying abroad or in prison. Therefore, the complex MQM question should now be answered in accordance with the law instead of seeking other instant remedies.

The military establishment has courageously and proactively intervened to stabilise Karachi. The Sindh Rangers have also played an active role in busting the criminal mafias in the city. They have performed such tasks which are supposed to be done by the civilian government. Obviously they can’t stay in Karachi indefinitely. Therefore, all state institutions, especially the federal government, should diligently perform their institutional role to bring peace and order in Karachi. Otherwise, the city would soon revert to its ‘state of nature’.