THE focus has once against shifted to the MQM whose leader Altaf Hussain has formally been charged in a court of law by the Metropolitan Police for “encouraging terrorism”. But any fear of panic or violence resulting from Thursday’s legal move in London proved short-lived.

There were few signs of anger in Karachi and other urban parts of Sindh, where until a few years back, the MQM made its presence felt in no uncertain terms.

Ironically, it was Mr Hussain’s incendiary words, for long his most potent weapon, that landed him in trouble — and, if convicted, he could face up to 15 years in jail. Specifically, the charge of terrorism is based on an address he delivered via telephone to his supporters in August 2016, provoking them to go on the rampage in Karachi.

The unthinkable has happened in the three years since Mr Hussain demonstrated his powers to turn a group of people into a menacing mob — Karachi has learnt to not react with anger to the news of Mr Hussain’s troubles.

The MQM as a tool of political clout — indeed, as an instrument of fear — has ceased to exist. In its place, there are factions, which are fighting for life, including Mr Hussain’s own surviving coterie that is known by its hugely restricted title of MQM-London.

Most of Karachi’s lawmakers today belong to the PTI, which had been in the forefront of the drive to pull down the Altaf edifice.

There is indeed little by way of support for the old MQM which originally claimed to have a monopoly over the Mohajir sentiment, before professing to represent the aspirations of ‘oppressed’ nationalities under the expanded umbrella of ‘Muttahida’ or ‘united’.

The ring around Mr Altaf Hussain and his MQM-London is getting narrower as cases such as the murder of Imran Farooq nine years ago in London are back in the spotlight. Crucial evidence in the Imran Farooq case has just been submitted in a Pakistani court. On the side and casting a dark and disturbing shadow on the party and its founder are cases such as the one where the police claim to have held a man suspected of murdering as many as 111 people. There is also a case of money-laundering against Mr Hussain.

The terror charge against Mr Hussain in London is a milestone as it shows the willingness of the country he has been living in for several years now to move purposefully against him. But at home, for the millions who were for so long forced to live with the MQM brand of politics — militant violence, extortion, bloody revenge and much more — the search for the truth has to be conducted right here, in their midst.

There can be no closure unless the dark secrets are unmasked and justice is allowed to take its due course.

Published in Dawn, October 12th, 2019

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