Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Farooq Sattar and other supporters of the party paid a visit to the "Martyrs' Monument" in the Azizabad Area in a ground close to the party's sealed headquarters in Karachi on Saturday.
The MQM-P was to stage a rally to visit the monument, but changed tack at the last minute, with Sattar alleging that the party was not granted permission by the administration to march to the Yadgar-i-Shuhada at Jinnah Ground.
Instead, Sattar said he and members of the party's Rabita Committee would visit the monument in the afternoon, a move for which permission had been accorded, the party chief announced at a press conference outside his residence this morning.
Sattar had said the party had asked its supporters not to show up for the march after being denied permission, however, "if they end up coming nevertheless, it is [because of] their own respect for the martyrs".
"The government and administration should have made these arrangements... [they] should have given us our right to use our freedom, which we are not being given," he said while speaking outside MQM-P's office in Bahadurabad.
Before leaving for the monument, the party held a consultative meeting of the Rabita Committee at its Bahadurabad office.
Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Sattar said they had applied for a permission for the march, but the administration refused, citing "threats to our lives".
Television footage showed a large crowd of supporters alongside Sattar and Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar offering prayers at the monument in the afternoon.
Talking to media later in the day, MQM leader Faisal Sabzwari said that Farooq Sattar had not ruled out talks with Mustafa Kamal, DawnNews reported.
He claimed that the PSP chief had missed a “golden chance” of forming a political alliance by giving “non-political statements”. Despite Kamal’s statements Sattar had “made it clear” that he was ready to “shake hands [with the PSP chief] for the sake of Sindh and its people”, the MQM leader said.
However, Sabzwari brushed aside the claims of MQM’s merger with PSP as “ridiculous”.
“If people compare the size of the crowd that turned up for MQM rallies — on December 30, April 23, and November 5 — with the crowd that PSP has been able to attract, they will have an idea that who wants to merge with the other party,” he said.
Since MQM founder Altaf Hussain’s incendiary Aug 22, 2016, speech, the party’s Nine Zero headquarters and its public secretariat at Khurshid Memorial Complex in Azizabad have been sealed off and the MQM-P, or those associated with Altaf-led MQM-London, have not been allowed to visit the monument known as Yadgar-i-Shuhada, Dawn reported.
While the 'powers that be' want the MQM-P to end its Mohajir politics and merge itself with the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) by forming a new party, Dr Sattar’s decision to stage the rally towards the monument to pay tribute to those who lost their lives while “struggling for the Mohajir cause” was being seen as a clear act of defiance.
“I believe we will be able to stage the march,” a senior MQM-P leader earlier told Dawn.
However, police had on Saturday morning started sealing all the roads leading to Yadgar-i-Shuhada. The main route from Ayesha Manzil to Mukka Chowk was also sealed using containers and barricades.
A large contingent of police was deployed in the area around the monument, and Rangers personnel patrolled the roads to thwart any untoward situation.
In a video statement posted on his Twitter account on Friday, Dr Sattar had told his party’s workers and “Haq Parast” people that his party would march from Ayesha Manzil to the “Martyrs’ Monument” on Saturday at 3pm. “The MQM will never forget the sacrifices of our martyrs,” he said.
The paramilitary Rangers always cordon off the Azizabad area on the days significant for the party to stop its workers and supporters to gather near the famous Mukka Chowk and to visit the monument.
Uncertainty looms over political deal
Meanwhile, uncertainty looms large over the deal between the MQM-P and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) despite Dr Sattar’s Thursday night’s announcement that the “political alliance” remained intact from their side.
Both parties entered into an “establishment-sponsored” political deal and announced on Wednesday that they would contest the coming general election from one platform and on one election symbol.
Faced with stiff resistance from his own party, Dr Sattar on Thursday night lashed out at PSP chief Mustafa Kamal, rejected reports of a possible merger and announced quitting politics only to reverse his decision in an hour.
Although he made clear that his party would contest elections on its symbol — kite — and from the platform of the MQM-P, he said that from his side political alliance with the PSP remained intact and it could also turn into an electoral alliance if needed.
Kamal, however, showed patience and did not come up with any reaction to Thursday night’s developments, or announce the demise of the alliance, on Friday.
He called a “very important” press conference on Saturday (today) at his party’s headquarters and his media team indicated that the PSP chief would respond to Dr Sattar’s criticism. However, nothing has been said about the fate of the political deal between the two parties.
Additional reporting by Azfar-ul-Ashfaque.