KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, which has for the last several months been a deeply divided house, on Saturday presented a united front when its two querulous factions jointly held a rally at the same Liaquatabad ground where the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) staged a show of power a week ago.
If the camaraderie and unity on display at the rally was a welcome sign for MQM-P’s workers and supporters, the reception accorded to Farooq Sattar when he got up to address the rally showed that he had come in from the cold after spending a lot of time in the wilderness. And Kamran Tessori, who has been in the eye of recent controversies in the party, attended the event just as any other party worker.
Another factor that set this rally apart from past ones was that almost all the speakers spent considerable time on “Muhajir rights”.
In fact the ethnic touch dominated the rally — from slogans to speeches — which the party had given up in 1997 when it had removed the word “Muhajir” from its name and replaced it with “Muttahida”.
Dr Sattar was the last to address the event, suggesting that he enjoyed a key position in the party. “We need to stay united for Pakistan,” he said.
He then mocked the PPP by calling it “Papa, Phupho and Pappu” party, apparently referring to Asif Ali Zardari, his sister Faryal Talpur and son Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari. Explaining why the two MQM-P factions had jointly held the meeting, he said, “Now that we have been challenged by the party of Papa, Phupho and Pappu, we need to tell them that our vote bank and support base is here and intact.”
He “appealed” to the National Accountability Bureau to pursue more than 180 corruption cases in Sindh as the anti-graft body had arguably not been as active in the province as it was in Punjab and against (functionaries of) the federal government.
Dr Sattar questioned the share of Karachi in the (Sindh) budget, saying that the city that paid Rs1,500 billion in taxes to meet the federal expenditure received only Rs9bn for its municipal administration which was “even less than charity and Zakat”.
Earlier, Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqi questioned the results of the census and appealed to Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar to take suo motu notice of “this mega dishonesty” with Karachiites aimed at reducing their share in national representation and thus leading to their “disenfranchisement”.
“I ask the state and its pillars what’s the crime of Muhajirs? For what are we being penalised? Why are we facing disenfranchisement? We are seen only as accountable but not countable,” he thundered as the crowd roared.
The most significant part of his speech came at the end when he rescinded the decades-old slogan of the party, which called for MQM cadres’ unquestionable loyalty to its founder Altaf Hussain and was often criticised by its critics and opponents.
“Now no one is leader in the MQM. We all are workers. We no longer need a leader, as we only need to achieve our goal,” Dr Siddiqui said.
Among other MQM-P leaders who spoke on the occasion were Amir Khan and Waseem Akhtar.
Minutes after the rally, PPP leaders came up with a strong reaction and called it a “failed political show”.
Addressing a press conference at the Bilawal House, they said the “scared MQM” had turned to ethnicity only due to the growing popularity of their party.
“Muhajirs know it very well that during the last 30 years, the MQM has rewarded its voters with China-cutting, bodies stuffed in gunny bags and extortion,” said Waqar Mehdi at the hurriedly called press conference. Other senior leaders of the party were present on the occasion.
“The MQM will taste defeat in next general elections. The people of Karachi have rejected the politics of hatred and ethnicity and they will turn to the party which unites them with the federation,” he said.
Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2018