Weekly Article Published in Daily 'Pakistan Today' on 13-03-2016:
New MQM in the offing
Will war gamers succeed this time?
The dramatic return of Mustafa Kamal the erstwhile blue eyed boy of MQM supremo Altaf Hussain, ostensibly dry cleaned and whitewashed by the ubiquitous establishment, is proving to be more than a storm in a teacup. The former mayor of Karachi has been entrusted with the onerous task of breaking the back of the MQM.
Where Afaq Hussain and his cronies failed by creating the so-called MQM-Haqiqi in the nineties, Kamal and his breakaway group from the MQM are supposed to succeed in the changed political scenario of Karachi. Undoubtedly the Rangers after breaking the back of the criminal wings of the MQM and the Lyari Gang now want to politically destroy the ethnic outfit.
In the past, such tactics have miserably failed. Musharraf carved out the Patriots from the PPP under the aegis of the then DG Rangers Punjab Major General Hussain Mehdi. As soon as the PPP leadership returned from exile the patriots vanished into thin air even before the 2008 elections were held. The PML-Q has also virtually met the same fate. The Sharifs are ruling the roost in Punjab and at the federal level unabated and unchallenged.
So why would the establishment succeed now? Surely they are also well aware of the unsavoury history of such political clones failing in the past.
Perhaps they feel that now things are different and objective conditions in urban Sindh would facilitate a change. Perhaps they are right. But the only sure fire method of knowing this is through elections that are still a little more than two years away.
If by-elections in Karachi and the recent local bodies polls serve as a litmus test, the results speak for themselves. The MQM has clearly managed to maintain it political suzerainty despite the odds.
Nevertheless, admittedly, cracks have started appearing in the house of MQM. Unlike the past some major party figures have shown the temerity to openly break ranks with Altafbhai. One of its most vocal spokesmen in the Sindh Assembly Azizabad MPA Iftikhar Alam joining hands with Kamal is a major blow for the ethnic outfit.
The credit goes to the LEAs (law enforcing agencies) that people of Karachi in general and MQM stalwarts in particular no longer live in constant fear of the MQM supremo and the thugs and mafias patronised by the party since its very inception in the ’80s. Altaf Hussain is no longer in a position to shut the whole city through his delirious calls while ensconced in London in self-imposed exile. The media that was forced to give saturated coverage to his edicts, through a court order, is now mandated to completely black him out.
In fact the complete ban on Altaf’s coverage has reached ludicrous limits. The other day rumours fuelled by some otherwise perfectly responsible media persons on social media became rife that Altaf Hussain was no more.
Bhai had to grant an interview to the BBC Urdu service head in London, Saqlain Imam, to demonstrate that he was alive and kicking. But none with the exception of this paper gave any coverage to the interview.
In the brief talk, Altaf offered an olive branch to the powers that be by saying that he did not want to be at daggers drawn with the establishment. He also claimed that given a chance he could change the face of Pakistan within a decade.
He jokingly brushed off allegations that he was working for the Indian intelligence agency RAW and if at all he was an agent of Allah and Rasool (the Holy Prophet (PBUH)). However, in reality it is no joking matter. The MQM’s Indian connection simply cannot be brushed aside so easily.
The sad reality is that MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement), originally Muhajir Qaumi Movement, essentially remains a party of the Muhajirs who had emigrated from India at the time of independence and settled in urban Sindh, mostly in Karachi and Hyderabad. The party’s half-hearted attempts to organise nationally obviously have not borne fruit.
Despite ruling the roost in Karachi and the rest of urban Sindh for over three decades, it has consistently used the victim card as a smokescreen for its violent mafia-style politics. Hence it is no mean feat that the operation against criminals, thugs and extortionists initiated by Prime Minister Sharif in September 2013 has restored peace in the megapolis.
Initially the PPP government in Sindh was happy that the MQM was being sorted out. But later when the gauntlet was thrown at the Party’s own criminal and corrupt people, it started crying foul.
Perhaps the arrest of Dr Asim Hussain, a close aide of the party co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari, last August proved to be the last straw for the party leadership. The Rangers, after miserably failing to pin terrorism charges against the doctor, have now handed him over to NAB. The net result of the putsch against the PPP has been that Zardari has gone into self-imposed exile while some other stalwarts have fled abroad.
Clearly, the Rangers somewhere during the operation have lost focus. Sometimes it seems that their eyes are no longer on the ball. The apex court has rightly rejected the paramilitary force’s plea to be given prosecution powers and has refused to grant permission to set up police stations.
Despite ostensibly breaking the back of criminal outfits sponsored by the MQM and making life difficult for the PPP, the law enforcing agencies, even with a pat on the back from their minders, cannot arrogate themselves the role of governing and administration. Similarly, the task of political tinkering and war gaming should be left to the politicians.
This mindset has been the raison d’être of coups d’état in the past, engineered by generals in the name of cleaning the Augean stables, invariably with disastrous results. The present partnership between the military and the civilian government to combat terrorism and root out criminals despite hiccups is working well. However, the Sindh government should not resist moves for capacity building of the highly politicised police.
Any moves by the establishment to behave like the traditional camel in the tent will be counter-productive. As for the MQM, rather than foisting clones to lead it or break it, any change should be allowed to come from within.
Perhaps the MQM leadership is already moving towards a ‘minus-one’ formula. The Rangers should be encouraging such a political outcome rather than creating surrogates to hijack the party. The Muhajir electorate is unlikely to support such an outcome.