Corroborating the criminal charges previously levelled against MQM chief by the former interior minister Sindh Zulfiqar Mirza, now there is another Mirza to significantly increase the worries of this already-troubled leader of MQM. The top leadership of MQM is somehow experiencing a sort of roller coaster ride following the serious allegations made by MQM’s convict activist Saulat Mirza against MQM and its chief Altaf Hussain. Now, a lot of fingers are being pointed at MQM for many high-profile assassinations in the city of Karachi. The Sindh Rangers have also formally registered a criminal case against the MQM chief for allegedly intimidating some senior officers of the force. Ironically, Altaf Hussain’s typical first-intimidate-then-retract policy seems utterly failed in the present case. In the face of a stockpile of criminal cases against him, this popular leader of urban Sindh somehow seems to be the most wanted politician in Pakistan with the passage of time.

It is not the first time that MQM and its Chief Altaf Hussain are facing some sort of serious existential challenge. Since its inception, the MQM has been entangled in similar controversies in one way or the other. However, it somehow always manages to escape the crisis at the end of the day. Its resilience and potential for recovery are simply unparalleled in the political history of the country. Similarly, despite not being present in Pakistan, Altaf Hussain’s firm grip over the affairs of his party is quite perplexing to many people. It may be a unique case in the world where a party leader successfully runs a full fledged political party while staying away in a foreign country.

The self-exiled leader of MQM has sought political asylum in the UK following Operation Clean Up in Karachi in 1992. Now, he is a naturalized citizen of the UK. Under Article 63 of the constitution of Pakistan, a person who has acquired the citizenship of a foreign state is simply disqualified from being a member of the parliament in the country. Strangely, a dual national who is ineligible to be a member of parliament is actively heading a parliamentary party in the country. Similarly, under section 5 of the Political Parties Order 2002, a dual national is also ineligible to be elected as an office-bearer of a political party in Pakistan. It is quite inexplicable how Altaf Hussain has been managing a political party in the country despite these mandatory legal provisions. Why has he been given such extraordinary legal concessions in Pakistan?

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides that everyone has the right to seek and enjoy in other countries, asylum from persecution. Article 1 of the United Nations’ Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951, defines a refugee as “a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country”. It is an established norm in international law that convicts or suspects of some heinous crimes are hardly granted political asylum in the civilized country. An asylum is generally granted against feared persecution instead of a legal prosecution by a state.

One absolutely fails to understand what ‘grave atrocities’ have been committed against MQM and its chief in Pakistan that he has chosen to stay outside the country for such a long time. Presently, the MQM is an active parliamentary political party in Pakistan. If Altaf Hussain’s political party is being allowed to fully participate in the political affairs of the country, why can’t he return to Pakistan to continue his political activities here? There is no legal impediment in the way of his return to Pakistan. He is not the only politician who feels there is a threat to his life in Pakistan. Presently, there are a lot of other political leaders, both in government and the opposition, who are staying in Pakistan despite similar threats.

Now, the government of Pakistan has reportedly shared some important evidence with the British High Commissioner in Pakistan in connection with the murder of MQM activist Dr. Imran Farooq. It is believed that some 3,576 criminal cases registered against various activists of MQM, including its chief, were dropped by the then government after the promulgation of National Reconciliation Ordinance in 2009. As this notorious law has been declared null and void by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, therefore all these cases can now be reopened and investigated. Instead of sharing evidence against MQM chief with the British authorities for the purpose of trying him there, Pakistan must formally ask the UK government to properly extradite him to Pakistan. He must be given a fair court trial in Pakistan, providing him the full opportunity of defending himself against all these allegations.

An elected prime minster and popular leader like Z A Bhutto was hanged on the charge of a murder. Similarly, the incumbent Prime Minster Nawaz Sharif, has also been imprisoned and compulsarily exiled by a military dictator in 1999. PPP’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has spent a part of his life in jail on various corruption charges. So, are politicians like Yousaf Raza Gillani and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi. Politics can only operate within the legal and constitutional parameters of a state. Politics can, by no means, be allowed to eclipse the state.

After the serious charges leveled against him and his political party, the longest-serving incumbent Governor Sindh should also step down. Political expedience must not override the principles. At this stage, any irresponsible behavior, exhibited by MQM’s leaders, would adversely affect the political interests of an ethno-linguist community whom it claims to represent. By letting the law take its proper course, the MQM must dilute all the mysteries and controversies shrouding it. Keeping in view the current political perspective and ground realities in the city of Karachi, the long-rejected so-called Minus One formula seems to be the ultimate fate of the MQM in Pakistan. Its political future hangs in the balance.