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Spotlight on MQM 'Muscle body'

September 06, 2014

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Waseem Aftab, Dr Nadeem Ehsan & Hammad Siddiqui
Waseem Aftab, Dr Nadeem Ehsan & Hammad Siddiqui

KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee (KTC), which was disbanded by Altaf Hussain on Thursday evening, is considered the party’s backbone without which many believe organisational work will badly suffer.

Background interviews with current and former office-bearers of the MQM indicate the increasing role and influence of the KTC over the years — from a mere post office to that of an omnipotent independent body — with the full blessings of Mr Hussain.

They said that while the coordination committee was the supreme decision-making forum of the party, in reality it mainly dealt with political issues. “The coordination committee is the political face of the MQM, while the KTC flexes its muscles if and when needed,” said a current MQM office-bearer.

All the 26 sectors and over 200 units of the party’s organisational structure in Karachi directly report to the KTC. It is the KTC’s responsibility to mobilise party cadre and the masses, arrange public meetings, rallies, street corner meetings, run election campaigns, organise protest demonstrations and, above all, ensure that ‘days of mourning’ announced by the MQM are observed across Karachi.

The KTC was formed in 2002 before which there used to be a ‘Tanzeemi Committee’ to oversee all MQM organisational activities across Sindh. It comprised a few members of the coordination committee, but when the KTC was formed senior members from sectors and units of the MQM organisational structure were inducted into it.

The first KTC was headed by MQM leader Waseem Aftab — an All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organisation stalwart, who was later elevated to the coordination committee.

The body was responsible for day-to-day organisational activities and answerable to the MQM coordination committee, which got messages from Mr Hussain or the MQM nternational secretariat in London and acted in the same manner as the KTC for implementation. “It worked like a post office then,” said another leader.

But in 2003, Mr Hussain dissolved both the coordination committee and the KTC for violating party discipline. MQM leader Anwar Alam was then made ‘ad hoc in charge’ of the coordination committee, while a ‘Tanzeemi Masail Committee’ replaced the KTC to deal with organisational problems.

The KTC was revived some time later with Naik Mohammad as its new head. During his tenure, the committee expanded its influence. The city witnessed the infamous May 12, 2007 mayhem when he was heading the KTC. Mr Mohammad was elevated to the coordination committee and another MQM office-bearer Arshad Hassan became the KTC head until 2008.

In 2009, MQM leader Hammad Siddiqui — who was also a central leader of the APMSO during student days and had remained part of almost every previous KTC — took over the committee and remained its head for more than four years.

Many believed it was Mr Siddiqui, the longest-serving head of the KTC, who expanded the committee’s role from a mere post office to an all-powerful body that had a say even in the nomination of party candidates for election to the provincial and national assemblies. Eventually, “the KTC became the eyes and ears of the party during his [Mr Siddiqui’s] tenure,” said an insider.

Shortly after the last general elections, Mr Hussain again dissolved both the coordination committee and the KTC once again and sent several leaders, including Mr Siddiqui, packing. The KTC was dissolved on May 21, 2013 in a closed-door meeting where the media had not been invited.

Dr Nadeem Ehsan, a former APMSO central leader, was later appointed the new KTC head. He had left Pakistan after the 1992 Karachi operation against the party and returned to the country in 2008. He then won a National Assembly seat in the 2008 general elections before being made a state minister. He had to resign from his seat because of his dual nationality.

With over 30 KTC members, Dr Ehsan tried his best to run the show effectively but he and his committee did not wield the influence that his predecessor had on party sectors and units, many MQM leaders believed.

On Thursday again, Mr Hussain announced the disbanding of the KTC saying it would not exist by next Thursday (Sept 11).

Despite Mr Hussain’s announcement, the fate of the KTC is still hanging in the balance as no-one knows what Mr Hussain had in mind when he said that there would be a coordination committee and then sectors.

“The KTC becomes too much powerful and many of us believe it is not good for any organisation to allow accumulation of maximum powers in one person or wing,” said an MQM leader. “There is a thinking that zones should be revived...but I don’t know what Altaf Bhai is thinking [about it]. Personally, I believe the KTC is the backbone of the MQM and its disbandment would affect the entire party.”

Published in Dawn, September 6th, 2014