KARACHI: The much-reviled founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Altaf Hussain, made his presence felt on the domestic political scene on Saturday when his lesser-known lieutenants — part of a recently announced interim set-up — held a news conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) and demanded that the ongoing “anti-MQM” operation be called off forthwith.
As the press conference progressed, scores of Altaf Hussain’s followers, including women, gathered in front of the KPC and chanted slogans in his favour despite the presence of a heavy contingent of the Rangers and police.
Only on Thursday the Scotland Yard decided to drop their money laundering investigation against Mr Hussain. And a much-relieved MQM leadership wasted no time in staging an event to show that there is no dearth of Mr Hussain’s loyalists who do not fear arrests and can stand behind him no matter how bad the situation is.
It was the first show of strength by Mr Hussain against Dr Farooq Sattar-led MQM-Pakistan, which had sidelined and disowned him following his Aug 22 incendiary speech.
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On Friday, the London-based convener Nadeem Nusrat announced a 12-member interim coordination committee comprising noted intellectuals and leftist leaders, who had recently joined the MQM.
“There is no entity like MQM-Pakistan or MQM-London...There is only one MQM whose leader is Altaf Hussain. No attempt to divide or eliminate it would be successful,” said Prof Dr Hassan Zafar Arif, one of the nine Pakistan-based members of the coordination committee and a former faculty member of Karachi University’s philosophy department.
He recalled that Altaf Hussain had twice apologised to the nation for his Aug 22 remarks and handed over all powers to Dr Sattar after his Aug 23 press conference in the larger interest of the Mohajir community.
“However, certain senior members not only disowned their leader but also condemned him, snatched his discretionary constitutional powers and expelled him and the convener of the coordination committee from the party only to save themselves,” he stated.
Accompanied by senior MQM leader Kanwar Khalid Younus, veteran progressive activist Advocate Sathi Ishaq and others, Dr Arif recalled various past attempts to introduce a “minus-one” formula in the MQM.
He alleged that the establishment had brought some “corrupt” people and created the Pak Sarzameen Party to divide the MQM, but their attempt had failed.
He criticised Dr Sattar, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Amir Khan and others for backstabbing Mr Hussain and assured the people that “no conspiracy and tactics” would separate Mr Hussain from them.
He demanded that “the anti-MQM operation” be ended forthwith, all party offices, including the Nine Zero headquarters, unsealed and all “missing” and held workers released so that their party could resume its peaceful political activities.
Dr Arif was asked as to how their claim to the MQM was legitimate as the party was registered in the name of Dr Sattar and almost every lawmaker stood with him and no-one sent his resignation despite Mr Hussain’s repeated calls.
He replied that the party was registered in Dr Sattar’s name several years after Mr Hussain left the country.
About the resignations, he emphasised that it was incorrect to say that Dr Sattar-led MQM enjoyed full support from party lawmakers. “We have resignations of many lawmakers and we will reveal them at an appropriate time.”
Answering a question, Dr Arif said that he and his colleagues would approach courts against Dr Sattar and others for getting the ownership of the party. However, he added, the strength of any political party came from the people and not from the decisions of the court.
Five of the nine Pakistan-based members of the coordination committee — Dr Arif, Advocate Ishaq, former president of the National Students Federation Momin Khan Momin, Amjadullah Khan and Advocate Idrees Alvi — have recently joined the party. Mr Amjadullah joined the MQM after leaving the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf a day before the by-election on a National Assembly seat (NA-245 North Nazimabad) was held in Karachi a few months ago.
Kanwar Khalid Younus, Ismail Sitara, Akram Rajput and Ashraf Noor have been associated with the MQM for decades.
Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2016