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MQM in flux

Updated March 12, 2016

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These are indeed interesting times for the MQM. For one, the maelstrom unleashed by former Karachi nazim and party stalwart Mustafa Kamal after his return to the city last week refuses to die down.

Up till now, Mr Kamal has managed to convince a number of MQM leaders — including two Sindh Assembly members — to join his fledgling, unnamed party.

While none of the defectors can be considered big names in the party’s pecking order, the fact that lawmakers are joining Mustafa Kamal’s caravan points to an internal crisis in the Muttahida.

Read: Two more MQM dissidents join Mustafa Kamal’s party

All those who have pledged their support to the former city nazim, such as Waseem Aftab and Sagheer Ahmed, have had similar plaints: that the party, particularly its supremo, Altaf Hussain, has used workers for nefarious purposes, including indulging in a number of serious crimes.

Of course, the Muttahida leadership has dismissed the defectors and the various accusations as part of a grand conspiracy against the party, pointing the finger at elements within the security establishment.

Allied to the string of defections have been calls for a judicial commission to investigate the allegations made by Mustafa Kamal and others, specifically related to the MQM’s purported links to Indian intelligence.

The PTI has been leading the calls for a judicial probe. However, the state has been proceeding cautiously in this regard; rather than corner the MQM, the federal interior minister has dismissed calls for a judicial probe, saying instead that a committee has been formed to look into the claims.

As far as the defections from the MQM are concerned, it is fair to ask what — or who — is fuelling this phenomenon.

If the MQM’s version regarding the involvement of the establishment’s hand is to be believed, then a few things need to be considered.

For one, the Muttahida has run a well-oiled electoral machine in urban Sindh for decades, and even when its militant wing was facing the heat of the security forces, it managed to maintain its electoral relevance.

So unless the split within the ranks of the MQM is ‘natural’ and the dissidence genuine, it is difficult to see Mr Kamal dislodging the Muttahida at the ballot box, especially if the perception that a minus-Altaf formula is being engineered from elsewhere persists.

Moreover, some of those standing with Mr Kamal have had links to MQM bodies such as the Karachi Tanzeemi Committee, which has earned a dubious reputation for itself. How will he dispel the notion of the pot calling the kettle black?

As for accusations regarding the MQM’s controversial activities, such as the alleged RAW link, if the state or any party has solid evidence in this regard, they should produce it and prove it in court. Otherwise, the whole spectacle will be little more than a media trial.

For its part, the MQM must clearly address these serious allegations instead of simply brushing them aside.

Published in Dawn, March 12th, 2016