THE art of politics hinges on the ability to choose the mot juste, and MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s recent statement on Karachi’s place within the federation was ill-considered in the extreme. Reacting to protesters’ allegations of poll rigging by his party, he had asked the leaders and the establishment to separate Karachi from Pakistan if they did not like the city’s mandate. His words may have been misinterpreted, as he clarified through a press release on Monday, but that doesn’t change the fact that it was inappropriate lexicon to use in a country that saw dismemberment in 1971 and still faces a separatist insurgency in Balochistan. Mr Hussain pushed all the wrong buttons; as the head of a political party that claims to have national aspirations, he ought to have known better.
Unfortunately, this was not all. In the same press release, he also said that anyone who had any grievance about the elections should seek legal remedy instead of coming out on the streets. Only a day earlier, he had issued what were taken as threats against a rally at Karachi’s main Teen Talwar intersection that was protesting against alleged poll rigging. Mr Hussain should keep in mind that taking to the streets in peaceful protest is a basic right of the citizenry. It is ironic that this must be repeated just after an election — one with a high turnout — has taken place. Now that this step towards continuing to strengthen the democratic process in the country has been taken, it behoves all quarters to play their part responsibly and with maturity. Reacting in haste and in anger will only result in playing into the hands of those that envision a regressive future for the country.