While the announcement of a political party by former Karachi nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal surprised Muttahida Qaumi Movement office-bearers, parliamentarians and workers, his outburst against party chief Altaf Hussain did not come as a shock to them. The MQM leadership has been mentally preparing them for a long time that a few dissidents, including Mr Kamal and Anis Kaimkhani, are in touch with intelligence agencies and they can be used against the party at a time of their choice.

The MQM has been preparing people for this moment for the past two years. Last year the party publicly distanced itself from Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad Khan who was considered a potential successor to Mr Hussain. On Thursday, it terminated the basic membership of Mr Kamal and Mr Kaimkhani.

It is for this reason that the MQM did not even use Mr Kamal’s name, or photographs, during its campaign for the Dec 5 local government elections in Karachi. Candidates and local leaders were strictly asked not to mention his name during their speeches and, if necessary, they referred to him as the former nazim of Karachi. The MQM kept telling its constituents that all development works carried out in Karachi during the tenure of the former nazim were actually a teamwork and in the light of the vision of Mr Hussain. That finally paid off well as the party managed to get an overwhelming majority in the local government elections.

Examine: Altaf in the spotlight, again

One reason behind the MQM’s decision to nominate Waseem Akhtar as its candidate for the office of Karachi mayor is because of his estranged relations with not only the former nazim but also with the governor. Both Mr Akhtar and Mr Kamal did not see eye to eye when the latter was in Karachi until Aug 2013.

“Over a year ago, Altaf bhai had told us that an intelligence agency had asked some disgruntled party leaders in Dubai to return to Pakistan and work against him but they refused. ‘But how long they can resist the establishment when they have got their weaknesses,’ Altaf bhai said and asked us to be prepared for the eventuality,” says an MQM leader.

Many MQM leaders are of the opinion that the names of Mr Kaimkhani and his adopted son were included in the new report of a joint investigation team probing the Baldia Town factory fire at the behest of the establishment that wanted Mr Kaimkhani to lead a new faction of the MQM against Mr Hussain.

Although the duo announced their own political party from their temporary headquarters in a Defence Society bungalow, the MQM is quite convinced that the powers that be would soon force them to take control of the party infrastructure in Karachi and would coerce parliamentarians and office-bearers to defect. Interestingly, the MQM leaders don’t deny Mr Kamal’s allegations with regard to Mr Hussain’s mercurial temperament because of his “excessive drinking problem”. However, they say it ill behoved Mr Kamal to speak the language of the establishment.

“He [Kamal] could have done it in a subtle manner if his only objective was to form a new political party,” says another leader. “It must be on the demand of the scriptwriters that he used such harsh language against Altaf bhai, whom he revered before, and levelled the same allegations we have been hearing for over two decades. They will coerce people to defect. When they defect, the world will be told that people are leaving Altaf Hussain because Mustafa Kamal opened their eyes.”

Read: MQM protest over ‘propaganda’

The fear of defections was also expressed by MQM coordination committee convener Nadeem Nusrat when he told a news channel that the MQM was sure that not a single worker, or a lawmaker, would join Mustafa Kamal if they were not coerced. “It is my appeal that no one should be allowed to coerce people to change their loyalty because it only harms the country,” he said.

Mr Kamal’s friends and foes, however, were convinced that making a new political party was not a wise move as he did not have the temperament for it.

“Kamal is a hot-headed man who lacks the hypocrisy required to lead a political party in Pakistan ... they [establishment] need just his face, but for running an organisation they need Anis bhai and such people as Hammad Siddiqui,” observes another leader. “On top of everything, they need Ishrat bhai [Sindh governor] if they really want to succeed.”

A former member of the MQM coordination committee thinks that the MQM cannot be weakened by a mere announcement of a political party. “I don’t see any chance of their success. He [Kamal] would not win if he contests the upcoming by-elections on NA-245,” he says, referring to the by-polls on a National Assembly seat in North Nazimabad that fell vacant after the resignation of MQM lawmaker Rehan Hashmi, who has been elected as a vice chairman of a Karachi Central district’s union committee.

Published in Dawn, March 5th, 2016

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