Absolutely determined to mend the distorted image of the largest ethno-linguistic community of the urban Sindh-Mohajirs, former Karachi mayor Syed Mustafa Kamal instantly emerged on the political horizon of Karachi by formally launching his Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) last month. Ever since, a number of MQM’s defectors have readily jumped on the political bandwagon of the ‘lone ranger’. However, he has yet not succeeded in persuading the political heavy-weights of the MQM. Nevertheless, by successfully holding an impressive public rally in the heart of Karachi within a short period of one month, he has reached a significant political milestone. Apparently, as an anti-thesis to MQM’s long self-imposed ethno-political apartheid in the Sindh, presently the PSP is trying to bring the disillusioned Mohajir community into the political mainstream of the country.

Mustafa Kamal decided to launch his political party when the MQM was experiencing the worst political crisis since its inception. At present, both the MQM and its self-exiled leader Altaf Hussain are facing many serious anti-state and criminal charges. A number of MQM activists have been nabbed by the LEA’s in Karachi. Altaf Hussain has been nominated in many criminal cases, including the murder of Dr. Imran Farooq in London. The live broadcast of his public speech has already been banned in Pakistan. The FIA is also probing Sarfaraz Merchant case which involves alleged MQM-RAW links. Currently, MQM’s political activities have been confined to the party’s Nine Zero headquarters in Karachi. In this perspective, Mustafa Kamal’s current pro-active political maneuvering would be a fatal blow to the vulnerable and marginalized political party.

All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organization (APMSO) was founded by Altaf Hussain in 1978 which subsequently gave birth to MQM in mid-1980. Ever since, MQM has also been pretending to exclusively represent and safeguard the rights of the Mohajir community in the province. However, in reality MQM is believed to be instrumental in the political polarization of the Sindh. Presently the province has been divided into two parts primarily on ethno-linguistic basis- the urban and rural Sindh. The seeds of the rural-urban quota system were sowed in Sindh’s land in accordance with the Constitution of 1973, which has now grown into a monstrous tree, challenging the very composition of this province. Urban-rural disparity can be observed throughout the country but it is only in the Sindh province where it has taken a volatile and destabilizing expression. This is the very reason the slogans like ‘Mohajir province’ or ‘one province, two systems’ are frequently heard in the province.

According to UNHCR estimates, around 14 million people were displaced during the partition of the British Indian Empire in 1947. Roughly 6.5 million migrants came to West Pakistan (now Pakistan) at the time of partition. Out of this massive influx of people, around 5.3 million were settled in Punjab while some 1.2 million were settled in Sindh. In this way, the province of Punjab absorbed approximately 82% of the total Mohajir population of that time. Over a period of time, this large segment of migrants has been integrated into the Punjab culturally and ethnically. Now these people proudly call themselves Punjabis. But unfortunately, the vested political interests deliberately didn’t facilitate the effective local-Mohajir integration in the province of Sindh. Therefore, the word ‘Mohajir’ still exists in the provincial lexicon of Sindh even 67 years after the creation of Pakistan.

Apparently, MQM has utterly failed in resolving the primary woes of the Mohjir population in the province. Instead, it is blamed for adding to the miseries of the Karachiites- violence, target killing, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom became the order of the day in Karachi as soon as the MQM was founded. Consequently, the city fell into the hands of different criminal mafias, land grabbers, extortionists, arms and drug peddlers. Thus Karachi, the premier abode of the Mohjir population in Sindh plunged into anarchy and darkness. Undoubtedly, this community is the worst affectee of the deteriorated security situation in the city.

Since the launch of military-backed Karachi operation last year, holding MQM responsible for all the current Karachiites’ miseries, a strong anti-MQM narrative has been evolved. Therefore, probably in line with this narrative, MQM was tried to be replaced by another political force in Karachi. Obviously the PTI was considered the most suitable replacement. However, despite politically joining hands with the Jamaat-e-Islami, PTI could not succeed in damaging the monolithic MQM’s political castle in the city. Owing to some reasons, both political parties could not mobilize their respective political support base during the recent by-elections and local government polls in Karachi.

Consequently, the proactive pro-MQM enthusiasm eventually prevailed over the passive anti-MQM sentiments in the city, enabling MQM to keep its traditional vote bank quite intact.

The political lessons recently learnt after successive electoral defeats in Karachi eventually gave rise to another quick-fix solution to get rid of MQM in the Sindh. Ex-MQM activist Syed Mustafa Kamal instantly arrived in Pakistan and launched his Paksarzameen Party, challenging the political status quo in Karachi. Hailing form Karachi, and belonging to the same ethno-linguistic community, obviously he is comparatively in a better position to make a dent in the traditional vote of MQM in the city by claiming to represent the Mohajir community in some way. Severally criticizing MQM and its leadership, he blamed them for transforming the peace-loving and civilized Urdu speaking people into a bunch of criminals, terrorists and enemy country’s operatives in Pakistan. He has vowed to improve the socio-economic as well as the political status of the Mohajir population in the province. He also promised to minimize the sufferings of the Karachiites through effective local government institutions.

PSP’s political ideology is quite fascinating and compelling in the sense it all aims at breaking the long-worshiped political ‘idols’ in the city.

Mustafa Kamal speaks of upsetting the political status quo in Karachi, which has badly damaged both the city and the image of Mohajir community. He is also desirous of integrating the Mohajir population with other communal entities after bringing it into the political mainstream in the country. Surely, it is a high time that the entire nation should rise above all ethnic, linguistic, sectarian and parochial affiliations in the larger interest of the country.

After successfully holding a public rally at Bagh-e-Jinnah in Karachi, PSP is planning to hold similar rallies in other cities in the country.

However, keeping in view the ground realities and general dynamics of politics in the country, PSP’s intended plan would be quite counter-productive. At this stage, PSP should focus on consolidating its political position in the urban Sindh. Certainly this very task is anything but easy. Similarly, the party should offer some pragmatic solutions to resolve current woes of the Mohajir population instead of trying to instantly abandon the ‘Mohajir’ nomenclature altogether. Seeking the political rights of sub-national entities within the legal and constitutional framework should neither be prohibited nor disliked. Without resolving the primary woes of these entities, they can hardly be brought into the political mainstream of the country.

Only time will tell how far PSP succeeds in translating its ideology into a political reality. And whether or not will it be able to motivate and mobilize the community it trying to represent. However, in this respect, the determination, sincerity and sagacity exhibited by its front-runners will definitely matter and make all the difference. PSP can go a long way in mainstreaming the long-exploited and troubled Mohajir community in the urban Sindh. It can also play a positive role in curing the chronic maladies of the ill-fated and rather ill-treated coastal city.