Though Altaf Hussain has a long record of stirring up hatred, chaos and violence in Karachi via satellite from London, his recent attack is far more serious given the larger context. The imperialist war against Pakistan is entering its final phase and every hybrid weapon in the arsenal of the desperate empire is being fired in a synchronised onslaught. Meanwhile, the leading lights of our democracy project would like to carry on their murky business of politics as usual.

There is no point in trying to convince the British government to hand over Altaf Hussain or to take action against him. It is like Turkey asking the US to hand over Gulen, so meticulously nurtured in Pennsylvania by Uncle Sam for 15 years. The Queen has been sheltering our Gulen for much longer. They will never give up their hybrid weapons that they have invested so much time and energy in, not until they feel that a particular weapon has lost its utility.

The best way to neutralise the imperial missile called Altaf Hussain is to focus on his Pakistan-based overt and covert facilitators, from MQM leaders being remote-controlled from London to target killers and terrorists on its payroll. After this recent salvo directly aimed at Pakistan, in this day and age, here in the middle of the Third World War, we can’t afford to beat about the bush when it comes to Altaf Hussain and his pet-monster called MQM.

This is not the first time that Altaf Hussain has shown his true colours or said sorry the next day. The pattern is clear for those who wish to see it. This is not the first time he’s pointedly spoken against Pakistan; he’s just raised the pitch. This is not the first time he has hurled hateful threats at the media, judiciary and the army. This is not the first time the MQM workers have attacked a media house or terrorised journalists on instigation by their supreme leader.

The MQM leadership in Karachi is once again spinning stories to cover the crimes of their boss in London. This time, the cover-up is more sophisticated and consciously riddled with confusion about where lesser leaders of the party stand vis-à-vis its boss. The question is: Why are the PML-N and PPP so eager to buy the ambivalent yarns being spun by Farooq Sattar and give MQM under his leadership a clean chit?

Would his cosmetic distancing from Altaf Hussain’s most recent venomous outpouring and its violent consequences change anything about MQM? Do they really believe that the party is poised to become independent of London’s remote control? Don’t they know that the party is designed as a cult? That its constitution mentions Altaf Hussain by name more than once, crowning him, in one instance, as the boss for as long as he lives? Aren’t they listening to what lesser MQM leaders are saying?

There are those who are still blatantly standing beside their boss, blaming excessive stress for his unacceptable outburst and waving his apology at us. Then there are leaders like Farooq Sattar busy performing a balancing act that could save both their skins and political careers, distancing themselves from what their leader said without denouncing him. Those who have dared to denounce Altaf Hussain have left the party. So which new MQM are we talking about?

The MQM’s claims about being popular in Karachi, mindlessly parroted by the media as gospel truth, are obviously false. Almost 80 percent of registered voters didn’t vote in the recent local bodies elections in the mega-polis. One must factor in the elements of forced voting and rigging, the undemocratic first-past-the-post system and gerrymandering over decades, the environment of violence and terror during elections, to get a clearer picture about the electoral victories of MQM.

Most of these factors apply, to varying degrees, to other entrenched political parties as well. This is hardly a justification though. In fact, it should force us to take a closer look at our oh-so-sacred parliamentary system and how representative it really is. We should also look more closely at each personality cult pretending to be a political party, at their second-string leaders and the left and right hand men who surround them. Actually, other entrenched parties easily qualify as MQM-Lite.

They might not be as blatant or organised, but they are quite similar to MQM. It might not be written in their constitutions but their supreme leaders are irreplaceable, free to call all shots without consultation. The yes-men and yes-women riding their bandwagons are happy with the crumbs of power and privilege that fall their way, power and privilege that are abused as a rule.

Look closely at the so-called activists and workers, and you’d find a host of criminal elements at their core. You’d find those coerced by the clout of their terror or those corrupted by patronage. You’d find the police serving the leaders and the criminals they patronise like household servants, covering up their crimes. These are the unwritten rules of our parliamentary game, and there seems to be an unwritten agreement among the entrenched mafias pretending to be political parties not to challenge the legitimacy of this crooked system.

If you think I’m exaggerating about the centrality of crime and terror in our current political system, just pause and reflect on these questions. Why is the PPP so adamant about not extending the military-led operation to Interior Sindh? Why is the PML-N so resistant to the idea of a similar operation in Punjab? What do they have to hide? Who are they protecting?

Why are these leading lights of democracy so eager to accept the MQM back into the parliamentary fold, with or without clarity on the role of Altaf Hussain in the party? Is it just self-preservation or are they, like Altaf Hussain, mere puppets in the hands of the empire? Are they, like Altaf Hussain, cultivated and compromised by their imperial handlers, incapable of wandering too far off from the imperial script? Just pause and reflect, for a moment, if not more.