IT has all the trappings of a cinematic blockbuster: loads of action, emotional dialogues and plenty of suspense. However, the real-life drama being acted out nightly on TV screens across the country regarding the internal turmoil roiling the MQM-Pakistan is more gripping than anything currently playing in the nation’s multiplexes.

In the post-Altaf Hussain era, this is perhaps the darkest hour for the MQM-P, as the wing of the Muttahida that split from the loyalist faction after Mr Hussain’s outrageous 2016 speech is known.

It has been anything but smooth sailing for Farooq Sattar, the party stalwart who has led the MQM-P since the split with Mr Hussain, and now challenges to his leadership have come into the open.

The impasse at the moment centres on the award of party tickets for the upcoming Senate election, with Dr Sattar pushing for certain candidates, while much of the old guard that forms the coordination committee has resisted his choices.

In the Altaf Hussain era such dissent would have been unthinkable, but today the Muttahida leaders are very publicly criticising each other. The sniping continued on Friday with a resolution to the internal crisis not imminent.

For sure, this is not the first time internal fissures have threatened to lead to the disintegration of the MQM.

After all, in the early 1990s, the Afaq Ahmed-led Haqiqi faction split from the party and became a distinct entity. Much later, in 2016 former Karachi mayor Mustafa Kamal formed the Pak Sarzameen Party, launching a vitriolic verbal campaign against Mr Hussain.

And after the latter’s infamous speech later that year, the mainstream party leadership came together under Mr Sattar’s banner, while Altaf loyalists dismissed the new wing. Today, rival candidates are threatening Dr Sattar’s claims of leadership.

It can be argued that the system Mr Hussain nurtured — one-man rule — did not allow the creation of any genuine second-tier leadership; Altaf Bhai’s word was law and there was very little internal democracy. However, even if there is a patch-up within the MQM-P, it may only be temporary and more factionalism cannot be ruled out.

It is ironic that a party that once ruled Karachi — often through strong-arm tactics — is today facing disintegration. A very real question of who will fill the MQM’s void in urban Sindh arises. The PSP, for one, is waiting to deliver the knockout blow. Things will definitely remain interesting in urban Sindh in the run-up to the general elections.

Published in Dawn, February 10th, 2018

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