KARACHI: Although a Muttahida Qaumi Movement MNA, who was recently released from Rangers custody after ‘questioning’, quit the party and joined the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), MQM-Pakistan head Dr Farooq Sattar appeared confident on Sunday when he claimed that all those who had left ‘under duress’ would return soon.

While the party led by former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal wants every MQM lawmaker to resign and join his PSP, the response it has got in about six months since his March 3 return to the country has not been as. Of the 51 members of the Sindh Assembly belonging to the MQM, only five MPAs — Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Iftikhar Alam, Bilqees Mukhtar, Ashfaque Mangi and Muhammad Dilawar — joined Mr Kamal’s caravan. A sixth MPA, Hafeezuddin, who joined the PSP, belonged to the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf.

On Sunday, Syed Asif Hasnain became the first of the 24 MNAs of the MQM who left the party, announced his resignation from the National Assembly and joined the PSP following the Aug 22 controversial speech of Muttahida founder Altaf Hussain.

Sattar says those quitting party ‘under duress’ will return

Even though Dr Sattar took control of the MQM and dissociated himself from Mr Hussain and his London office, Mr Kamal is unwilling to accept this. He said at a press conference at the PSP headquarters that it was merely eyewash and a result of an understanding between Mr Hussain and Dr Sattar.

Mr Kamal, who already had called upon the authorities to ban the MQM, slammed those who wanted the Dr Sattar-led MQM to continue to be a part of the country’s political system.

Emphasising that the mandate the MQM parliamentarians had was actually given to Mr Hussain in the elections, he urged them to “leave the mandate. It is not your mandate, it is his mandate.”

Mr Kamal was not inspired by Dr Sattar’s assertion during his Saturday’s press conference when he called the MQM founder Altaf sahib and not bhai or MQM Quaid.

Accusing him of lying, he warned Dr Sattar that Mr Hussain would never allow anyone else to lead his party. “He killed whoever was capable of doing so. He killed Azeem Ahmed Tariq. He killed Dr Imran Farooq.”

But it appears that Dr Sattar did not pay any heed to Mr Kamal’s ‘warning’ as he firmed up his grip over the organisational affairs of his party when he got support from every wing and section of the MQM, including the All Pakistan Muttahida Students Organisation, about the steps he had taken following the Aug 22 speech of Mr Hussain.

During a chat with reporters at his PIB Colony residence where he has set up a temporary party headquarters, he said that a number of workers and office-bearers who had left the party ‘under duress’ had already returned to the MQM fold after his Aug 23 press conference but the party did not want to identify them at this stage.

He said Mr Hasnain would also return to the MQM in the days to come. Mr Hasnain, MNA from Karachi constituency NA-255, Landhi, was present at the Aug 23 press conference of Dr Sattar in which he disowned the controversial statement of Mr Hussain and announced divorcing the London secretariat of the MQM.

In the night between Aug 23 and 24, he was taken into custody at Karachi airport when he tried to board a flight to leave the city. He was not officially arrested, and released after he assured the powers that be that he was ready to quit the Dr Sattar-led MQM and join the PSP, claimed sources. Mr Hasnain himself confirmed his arrest at the PSP press conference and said that the Rangers took him into custody at the airport for questioning. However, he claimed that he was not fleeing abroad, but leaving for Islamabad to take some rest.

Accompanied by PSP chairman Kamal and secretary general Raza Haroon, Mr Hasnain insisted that he had not been pressured to join the PSP. He said that Dr Sattar was not capable of dissociating himself from the MQM-London and because of this more lawmakers would quit the MQM to join the PSP. He said that following the controversial speech he had contacted Mr Kamal and told him that he was ready to join the PSP. “This was delayed because he [Kamal] had to visit Dubai.”

He said poor workers and their families were facing immense difficulties and they did not have even Rs2,000-3,000, while leaders like Mustafa Azizabadi and Muhammad Anwar made billions in ‘china-cutting’ of land. He announced that he was resigning from the National Assembly.

Mr Hasnain was first elected MNA in 2008. Before his election, he was the nazim of Landhi Town.

Published in Dawn, August 29th, 2016