The rebel and the good boy
By Ahmed Yusuf
For the generation of Mohajir youth who grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, Mustafa Kamal was the perfect example of how far someone could go if they had the right opportunities. A resident of a slum, a telephone operator, and then the city nazim (mayor) of Karachi. But he could only rise this high because of his association with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and Altaf Hussain. Without Altaf, they were nothing.
Kamal’s emergence as the rebel against Altaf’s tyranny, of course, had an obvious history. Kamal had slowly but surely parted ways with the party after his tenure as the mayor ended. He also shied away from any interviews or requests to reveal what exactly transpired between him and the party chief. Only after his return did he break his silence about why he had rebelled and his remorse at being party to the moral corruption sown by Altaf. He condemned the “Mohajir” identity, choosing instead to identify with an overarching “Pakistani” identity.
Ever since his return, however, Kamal has been unable to establish his party as more than a safe haven for former MQM activists with criminal records. In fact, his Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) still doesn’t give the impression of being a permanent entity like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) does. This is despite the presence of some ideological heavyweights within PSP ranks.
Although some grassroots defectors have returned to the MQM-P ahead of the polls, the PSP still retains a strong workers base who have been able to adorn mohallas and markets with PSP flags and banners. But public response to Kamal’s campaign has been lukewarm till now. What the PSP has going for them is their strategy of focussing on select constituencies where they feel they have a higher probability of winning. And in those areas, Kamal’s party has been mirroring the man whose ways they supposedly abhor.
Kamal has challenged Karachi’s sixth housing and population census in the Supreme Court, saying Karachi’s population figures are much lower than the real figure. The petition also has other objections which the SC will take up in August. In his petition, Kamal has also asked that seats of national and Sindh assemblies be re-allocated on the basis of fresh Nadra data.
Even though Kamal first said PSP will not play politics based on ethnicity, he has still tried to appeal to the Muhajir identity during his 2018 election campaign.
“Should Muhajirs ignore the fact that Karachi has one university and their kids are not even getting admission there? Should they forget that their city has been turned into ruins?"
He also once made a public appeal to the army chief to grant a one-time amnesty to Karachi youth similar to the one offered to militants in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Fata.
Kamal believes his party is a strong alternative to MQM and that the Muhajirs can turn to it for their rights. “The Muhajirs will continue to face humiliation until the MQM is eliminated,” he told a workers’ convention at the KMC ground in PIB Colony — a venue often chosen by MQM-Pakistan leader Dr Farooq Sattar.
In his dramatic presser of March 2016 in which he announced the formation of PSP, Kamal said Altaf Hussain has links to Indian intelligence agency RAW and that “everyone knows” that.