Farooq Hameed Khan The epicentre of Pakistans most recent earthquake was not in the Hindukush, but in Altaf Hussains cool and posh London settings. The first main tremor that called upon patriotic generals to take action against waderas/jagirdars and corrupt politicians rocked the entire nation. The series of aftershocks calling upon the army not to stand in the way of a French-style Revolution and to help the oppressed get to the throats of the feudal exploiters, caused panic in political circles and stunned those in the corridors of power. At a time when the entire nation was struggling to cope with the devastation caused by the ravaging floods, Altaf Hussains outbursts raised a few questions. Were his repeated references to martial law, meant to tarnish the armys image for being the nations saviour in the 'war on terror and its speedy flood rescue and relief operations? It seems that by involving the army to further his political agenda, the MQM chief could not have been more unfair to this national institution. The ensuing heated debate in the political and media circles saw sharp criticism of the military, as well as 'generals bashing, for the previous martial laws. That definitely has not gone well with the army, so deeply committed in the war against the militants and the flood relief operations. A senior politician who, otherwise would welcome even a late night invitation to the Army House, went as far as to question the armys sincerity to collect donations for the flood victims. Perhaps, Altaf bhai still has not understood the armys psyche or its functioning. That some military men were more patriotic than others, is incomprehensible and defies good military sense. Does he expect this highly professional and disciplined force to go around 'helping angry Pakistani rural folk take revenge from their feudal masters? Does he really believe that the army would ever join the anarchists or let the country slide into anarchy? He must keep in mind that the armys unity of command and organisational structure does not allow it to indulge in a rash and uncivilised manner. Or is it that Mr Hussain is feeling the PPP-ANP squeeze in urban Sindh and Karachi too hard to bear? The MQMs power base, hitherto unchallenged in the past, appears to be threatened with the demographic changes caused by rapid influx and growth of other ethnic communities in Karachi. Despite being a coalition partner in the centre and the province, the MQM appears to no longer enjoy the same unrivalled powers, the freehand and control over Karachi affairs that it used to have in the Musharraf era. Is Altaf Hussain pre-empting any emerging scenario against the MQM? The failure of law enforcing agencies to stop target killings and the continuous bloody conflict between militant wings of various ethnic groups, including the MQM and ANP, in Karachi have led to the possibility for an army operation. Any such move on part of the PPP-led government in Karachi and Islamabad, would certainly not be in the MQMs interest, keeping in view the past experiences. If Altaf Hussain appears so desperate to change the status quo, what prevents the MQM MPs from resigning en masse as a first step, to trigger a democratic in-house change? Instead of firing the gun from the militarys shoulder, why not first return to Pakistan to lead the peoples revolution against the feudal lords and nouveau riche, rather than urging the leaderless masses to take to the streets first. In the aftermath of his interview to a local TV channel, at the height of the controversy, the MQM chief did gain conceptual acceptance on two accounts. First, the end to feudalism and its exploitation of the poor class. Second, the need for a change, but not via martial law or related action, so as to steer the country out of the current crisis. A truly national set-up backed by the army and the judiciary, that includes honourable Pakistanis and clean and respected politicians alongwith wizards in their respective fields, could be a viable option in the current scenario. Such an arrangement would restore law and order, bring back economic stability, undertake ruthless accountability of the unscrupulous elements and hold elections under an independent Election Commission in 2013. But such a development would be extra-constitutional unless provided legality by the judiciary. Thus, the move for change faces opposition from both the PPP and PML-N, which remain aligned for the status quo and are not inclined for any in-house democratic change or mid-term elections. More so, the Supreme Court needs to take bold decisions regarding various petitions pending before it irrespective of the consequences. The suggestion that CJ Chaudhry should head the national government surprised many, however, made good sense. Anyway, martial law has been buried for good in Pakistan. The Prime Minister correctly assessed that the army will neither impose martial law, nor was it interested in taking over the country, but some recent developments are noteworthy. The American factor is too dominant to be ignored in Pakistani politics or national decision making, especially when related to the changing mood of the people. Bryan Hunt, USAs local trouble-shooter, met Altaf Hussain before he spoke from London. The US ambassador too is reportedly to be meeting leading politicians. Indeed, Altaf Hussains tirade left the nation bewildered and increased the level of uncertainty within the country. For the present, the tremors from London appear to have died down. Watch out for his next shock wave The writer is a retired brigadier Email:fhkhan54@gmail.com