THE national political landscape has rapidly changed following the general elections and as recent events have shown, one of the parties under-going considerable internal changes is the MQM. The incident that kicked off the current crisis seems to be Altaf Hussain’s impolitic statement (later clarified) targeted at PTI supporters protesting against alleged rigging soon after the elections. From that point on, one dramatic event after another involving the Muttahida has unfolded. Following Imran Khan’s unsubstantiated allegation holding Mr Hussain responsible for the murder of a PTI leader and the subsequent uproar, MQM workers turned on many of their leaders at the party’s headquarters in Karachi. On May 21, the Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, a key body in the party’s organisational structure, was disbanded while on Thursday, the main Coordination, or Rabita, Committee was dissolved. Altaf Hussain told his party workers that he was cleansing the party of “corrupt and unwanted elements”, and that those collecting ‘donations’ on the MQM’s behalf or involved in land-grabbing would be expelled.
The issues rightly pointed out by Mr Hussain, coupled with the reputation for high-handedness that has dogged the MQM for many years, seem to have had an impact on voters in Karachi. Though the MQM managed to bag nearly all the seats it contested from the metropolis, the PTI’s candidates put up a decent show, finishing second behind the MQM on many seats. ECP figures confirm the MQM’s vote bank has shrunk — though slightly. This shows the voter cannot be taken for granted. The time has come for the MQM to do some soul-searching and address the negative perceptions about it. Unless the issues confronting the MQM are addressed in a forthright manner, there’s no guarantee the party will continue to dominate politically in urban Sindh.