ON Tuesday, MQM founder Altaf Hussain was taken into custody by police authorities in London over an anti-Pakistan speech he made to party workers in Karachi in 2016. As per reports, he has now been released on bail.
This would appear to be something of an anti-climax for those who have followed his journey in Pakistani politics as the leader of an ethnically motivated party known for striking fear into the hearts of ordinary citizens in urban Sindh. It is something of an irony that Mr Hussain, thousands of miles away, may yet find an escape route, even as the Sharifs and the ever-resourceful Asif Ali Zardari are held accountable for their deeds in Pakistan.
It is clear that Mr Hussain’s role has weakened considerably, especially as the MQM has split into factions — not least because of a conscious effort by the establishment and certain political forces to divide the party. In fact, it has been evident for quite some time that the once revered and deeply feared ‘Bhai’ has practically ceased to exist in spirit. He may retain his silent admirers, and those who would still heed his call to not vote in a general election, but at 66, and after having served as the lynchpin of many a project, besides being in a state of extended self-exile, it can be safely assumed that, politically, Mr Hussain is well past his prime.
He is but a pale shadow of the kingmaker who once ruled over vast areas of Karachi and Hyderabad.
In the past, whenever the law initiated an investigation into the conduct of Mr Hussain, who besides his routine incendiary tirades has also been in the public eye for alleged money laundering and a suspected role in the murder of a senior MQM leader in London, warnings were sent out. Monitors were asked to keep a close watch on the areas that constituted the party’s stronghold.
Many of the old watchers have since done away with the warning ritual, and only the curious try and gauge the feelings of those who once overwhelmingly stood behind Mr Hussain. Perhaps, a deeper analysis is still needed to go beyond the persona and politics of the man. Various accounts suggest that many issues stand unresolved. Mr Hussain may be down, perhaps permanently, but the feeling that his influence and actions have given birth to a very divisive brand of politics is very much alive.
Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2019