by Ahmed Yusuf
Trust holds great value in Mohajir politics — once someone becomes embroiled in controversy, they lose their credibility and comrades’ goodwill for a very, very long time. As the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) lurched from crisis to crisis over the past year, it is Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui who has emerged as the most trustworthy in the party. The saadiq and ameen of Mohajir politics.
The one line that Siddiqui has repeated with great frequency ever since he has taken charge of the party is “hathyaar humari tehzeeb nahin, tehzeeb humara hathyaar hai” [Weapons are not our culture, culture is our weapon.] In a nutshell, this is the message that the MQM-P has been preaching after dissociating from Altaf Hussain and is its point of differentiation, too. Nobody else’s person captures this distinction better than Siddiqui.
A former deputy convener of the united MQM, a key component of policy formation, a former chief of the All Pakistan Muttahida Student Organisation (APMSO), a former leader of overseas wings, Siddiqui has risen through the ranks and has ample experience of leadership. After August 22, 2016, the decision to move away from Altaf was taken by three men: Farooq Sattar, Amir Khan and Siddiqui. While Sattar is now being accused of being autocratic and inconsistent, and Amir Khan is accused of having leadership ambitions and the ability to arm-twist his adversaries, Siddiqui’s tehreeki background and clear-headedness have proven to be his greatest virtue.
Time has been unkind to Siddiqui, however. He assumed the reins of the party in the midst of an existential crisis, a defeat in the Senate elections, and little time before national polls. In other words, he has been unable to stamp his imprint on the party or even present his vision proper. The return of Sattar and his group might have swelled numbers but trust is in short supply. Meanwhile, the electioneering campaign till now has been focussed on the MQM-P’s response to Altaf’s boycott call.
But equally, Siddiqui has been an unwilling leader. He has traditionally preferred to work behind the scenes. At this point in time, he is the party’s only option to keep things running along. If the MQM-P fails badly in these polls, and if the party chief does not win his constituency, expect Siddiqui to hand off the reins of the party to a younger leader in preparations for the next elections.
Siddiqui says the local government system currently in place in the country is devoid of authority for the elected representatives. His party is of the view that the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 leaves Karachi's mayor so weak that he cannot even order a cleanliness drive in the city without involving provincial ministries.
The MQM-P leader, who has also been the longest service chairman of the All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organisation (APMSO), has on occasion reiterated his party's longstanding stance that the Muhajir community is being oppressed.
"Muhajir Quami Movement became Muttahida Quami Movement after a brutal operation was conducted against us,” Siddiqui, who headed the APMSO during the tumultuous early 1990s and is known for his strong opinions, said at the press conference during which MQM announced its decision to separate from the Sindh government.
Until the MQM founder was officially removed as party head, Siddiqui continued to defend Altaf Hussain and spoke against PPP leaders for criticising the London-based leader.
“Again and again language has been used against our leader which we would not tolerate and have only shown patience at the insistence of Altaf Hussain," Siddiqui said in 2014.
Though the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) is being regarded as a party that could give the MQM-P some tough competition in lower Sindh, Siddiqui doesn't appear to be so worried and believes the MQM-Pakistan is stronger than ever despite the exit of what he called "a few party members". "We have faced a severe crisis in the past, but we have always come stronger...if tomorrow, any one of us asks people to vote for us on any other symbol than that of MQM's, then don't vote for us. We won't let our sacrifices go in vain," Siddiqui, who is not exactly viewed as the soft face of MQM, said in April.