Hyderabad: MQM’s Pucca Qila

Published Dec 21, 2007 12:00am

The master propagandist of the twentieth century Goebbels had once said, “He who can conquer the streets can also conquer the masses; and he who has conquered the masses has thereby conquered the state”.

Joseph Stalin had even gone a step further when he said something to the effect that the voters do not decide about the election results but those who count the votes decide the outcome of the elections.

Since the emergence of MQM phenomenon on the political horizon in the later half of 80s, it has conquered the streets of the historic city of Hyderabad and held complete sway over the masses.

In a way it has also conquered the state because no federal or Sindh government has been able to function without the active support of this party.

Both the former prime ministers, Ms Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, perforce had to pay homage at 90. It was on October 31, 1986, if the memory does not fail me, that MQM chief Altaf Hussain had addressed his first public meeting at the historic Pucca Qila ground. It was roses, roses all the way for him.

The field was lying wide open for him as all the Urdu-speaking leaders of the city -- Syed Mubarak Ali Shah of Moti Mahal which was the centre of Mohajir politics, Nawab Zahid Ali Khan and Nawab Muzaffar Hussain who had founded Mohajir, Punjabi Pathan Mutahidda Mahaz” to counter Sindhi nationalist G. M. Syed’s Jeay Sindh Tehrik -- had passed away. The Mohajirs badly needed a charismatic leader and found one in Altaf Hussain.

There will be no exaggeration to say that on that cool, breezy night of October 31, 1986, “He came, he saw, he conquered”.

The Urdu-speaking people of Hyderabad were hungry for leadership and they formed queues to donate money to the MQM. And since the 1988 general elections, the party has maintained this stranglehold and Altaf Hussain has ruled the roost.

The MQM won the two National Assembly seats and four provincial assembly seats and except on two occasions when it boycotted elections in 1993 and lost one National Assembly seat to the newly formed Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal in 2002, it has been winning all the six seats.

In Pakistan unlike in the civilised world people have always voted for personalities and not for parties (except in some cases during late Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s days). The Choudhris, Waderas, Pirs and Mirs have returned to the assemblies year after year.

Like property, politics in Pakistan is also hereditary. The only exception is MQM where the Urdu-speaking people have voted for little known people. Candidates have been imported from Karachi and they have won the elections with flying colours.

MQM has no peer in organisational matters (except Jamat-i-Islami) and its activists work tirelessly. “There is not to make reply, there is not to reason why, there is but to do and die”, is the unwritten code of the party.

The iron discipline has paid rich dividends in the local bodies as well as the general elections during the last 20 years and will make a big difference in the January 8 elections.

The MQM is poised to win the two national and four provincial assembly seats of Hyderabad (City and Latifabad talukas) unless something dramatic happens. The district government is headed by none other than the first zonal in-charge of Hyderabad chapter, Kanwar Naveed Jamil, a diehard MQM stalwart. Similarly, the two taluka administrations and overwhelming majority of union councils are also headed by MQM diehards.

On NA-219 (Latifabad), MQM has nominated Syed Tayyab Hussain who has been brought from America to contest elections. His main opponent is PPP’s Ali Mohammad Sehto. Six other candidates are also in the field but they are non-entities as far as elections are concerned. Their names will be among “They also ran”. This constituency is dominated by Urdu-speaking people with small pockets of Sindhi, Punjabi and Pushto speaking people.

Unfortunately since the great divide of 1988-90 when the people of the city witnessed unprecedented ethnic riots, the elections in the city are fought, whether one likes it or not, on ethnic basis.

The massacre of over 250 innocent people on September 30, 1988 in Hyderabad and Latifabad and the retaliation in Karachi, the following day, and the Pakka Qilla operation in May 1990 added fuel to the fire.

The main causality of the ethnic divide are general elections.

In the 1988 elections, MQM’s Rashid Ahmed Khan won the elections by a thumping majority by obtaining 72,315 votes against his main rival Haji Mohammad Rasheed of PPP who obtained 21,108 votes.

In 1990 MQM’s Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui (91,373 votes) beat Mirza Ashiq Baig of PDA (PPP) who got 24,259 votes. In 1993, MQM boycotted the elections and Qazi Asad Abid (PPP) won the seat by obtaining 17,837 votes.

In general elections, the MQM again fielded Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui who bagged the seat by obtaining 54,044 votes by beating PML-N candidate, Mohammad Rashid Nagar who got only 12,388 votes.

In the 2002 elections Professor Khalid Wahab of MQM won with comfortable majority. On his death, the seat was again bagged by MQM’s Pervez Qureshi in the by-elections.

From the above, it is quite evident that both the provincial assembly seats of Latifabad namely PS-48 and PS-49 will also be bagged by MQM.

On PS-48, the MQM has fielded Zubair Ahmed Khan against PPP’s Ahmed Ali. There are five other candidates in the field but they stand no chance in PS-49 the MQM has nominated Sohail Yousuf Khan. PPP had earlier nominated Aftab Khanzada on this seat but he has withdrawn in favour of Abdul Jabbar Khan, who is former taluka nazim of Latifabad and has somehow managed to ‘grab’ PPP ticket. Now the contest could be interesting.

NA-220 comprises City taluka. The electoral history shows that the former mayor of Hyderabad Aftab Ahmed Shaikh of MQM had won the seat in 1988 with 80,935 votes by beating Abdul Waheed Qureshi of Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, who got only 5,907 votes.

In the 1990 general elections, Kanwar Naveed Jamil won the seat with 76,578 votes by defeating Shah Fareedul Haq of Jamiat Ulema-i-Pakistan who obtained only 13,949 votes.

In 1993 elections which were boycotted by the MQM, PML-N’s Shabbir Hassan Ansari won the seat by obtaining only 1,8562 votes by defeating his closest rival, Abdul Waheed Qureshi.

In 1997 elections, MQM sent Tariq Javed from Karachi to contest the elections who obtained 51,226 votes against Shabbir Ansari who again contested the elections as an independent candidate but got only 16,243 votes.

In the 2002 elections MQM suffered a setback as its candidate, Aftab Ahmed Shaikh, then deputy convenor MQM’s coordination committee, was defeated by MMA’s Sahibzada Abul Khair Mohammad Zubair by a narrow margin.

Eleventh hour changes in MQM Hyderabad’s zone set-up are supposed to be one of the main reasons for its defeat. Party high command had again sent a man from Karachi, Dr Arshad Shah to replace zonal organiser Salahuddin and also contest for PS-46 which he won. Aftab Ahmed Shaikh since then, has been discarded by MQM like a piece of broken china.

For January 8 elections, MQM has fielded former MPA and ex-zonal in-charge Salahuddin. His main rivals are Sahibzada Dr Abul Khair Mohammad Zubair (MMA) and PPP’s Irfan Qureshi. Irfan Qureshi is a builder and little known in the general public.

Although the Sindhi population which is in minority is likely to vote for him, he is as good as ruled out. The real contest will be between Salahuddin and Sahibzada Zubair. However, the situation has radically changed as boycott by Jamat-i-Islami will certainly make some difference.

The population of the City taluka, specially the densely populated areas of Paretabad and Phulelli, is highly religious-minded and that was the reason that Sahibzada Zubair had won the seat in the last general elections.

The MQM has however covered a lot of ground during these five years and its candidate Salahuddin belongs to Hyderabad and enjoys a good reputation. Although there will be a contest but as the things stand today, MQM will win the seat as the district government has undertaken massive development works in the city.The constituency has two provincial assembly seats namely PS-45 and PS-46. In PS-45, MMA candidate Abdul Rehman Rajput had won the seat in 2002. He is again contesting the seat as a candidate of PML-Q as only recently he had changed his loyalties.

Although, he is a very hardworking and simple person and enjoys a considerable influence in the area, he hardly stands any chance against the MQM candidate Mohammad Akram, Adil Qureshi. The PPP has fielded Qazi Pasha who is little-known in the constituency and has no chance of winning the seat whatsoever. The real contest will be between Qureshi and Rajput if it can be called a contest.

In PS-46, MQM has fielded Waseem Hussain against PPP’s Fayaz Hussain. However, the contest is unequal and MQM’s candidate is a sure winner.


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