NEARLY four years after the ouster of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain from the country’s political arena, the future of the MQM-Pakistan and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) still looks grim as the powers that be are keeping them on a tight leash despite their open dissociation from their once-revered London-based supremo.
The PSP and MQM-P are struggling hard to fill the vacuum created in the aftermath of an unannounced ban on Mr Hussain following his Aug 22, 2016 incendiary speech, but background conversations with their many leaders suggest that the establishment still harbours doubts about them and due to a trust deficit it allows them limited political freedom.
Some of them confide that the interference of the establishment in the affairs of their respective parties has grown to the extent that they are finding it difficult to do politics on their own.
The senior leaders of both the parties have been facing court cases and almost all of them are currently on bail. It’s an open secret that these cases are being used to pull their strings and, therefore, despite passage of years the logical conclusion of the cases is still not in sight.
While the PSP did not win a single seat in the 2018 general elections, the MQM-P was restricted to a mere four seats, out of 21 National Assembly seats in Karachi. With the four-year term of elected local government (LG) set-up due to end later this month, the MQM-P, which currently boasts the positions of Karachi mayor and four of the six district chairmen, has been informed how important an electoral alliance with the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) would be when the LG elections are held.
While the charity wings of almost every political party can collect zakat and fitra in Ramazan and hides of sacrificial animals on Eidul Azha in Karachi, the welfare foundations of the PSP and MQM-P are not allowed to collect donations from the public.
After a lapse of over three years, the MQM-P and PSP were recently allowed to launch coronavirus relief activities and the former was given access to the sprawling headquarters of its Khidmat-i-Khalq Foundation (KKF) in Federal B Area’s Block 7, close to its now sealed Nine Zero headquarters.
Neither the PSP nor the MQM-P was allowed to collect zakat and fitra in Ramazan and this year too they have not been allowed to collect hides on Eidul Azha.
According to rules, an organisation must obtain a no-objection certificate from the office of the Karachi commissioner if it wants to collect hides of sacrificial animals.
When contacted, the spokespersons for the two parties said that the charity wings of their respective parties did not apply for a permission to collect hides on Eidul Azha.
Besides the fund collection issue, the two parties are not allowed to open new offices in any part of the city without first informing and getting verbal consent from certain quarters which on several instances cite security and law and order concerns for denying them permission.
Keeping in view the chequered past of the unified MQM, to which a majority of PSP leaders and workers were associated, the two parties have reluctantly agreed to these curbs as they have no option but to make their peace on such issues.
However, both the MQM-P and PSP have a serious problem with the ‘political engineering’ being carried out by certain quarters for what they call “mainstreaming” the city’s politics.
Senior leaders of the two parties, separately, are regularly being called to meetings in safe houses, where instructions are passed in the name of friendly advice to set the future course of their politics.
This time the powers that be are not interested in a merger between the MQM-P and PSP after the failure of a previous attempt in this regard in November 2017. They are more interested in telling them about the advantages of having a merger with the PTI for the “benefit of Karachi”.
Both parties have already communicated the disadvantages of any such act, saying a merger with the PTI will ultimately lead to the revival of Mr Hussain. They tried to convince them that it would be a political suicide and it would only deepen the existing vacuum.
They believe that currently even an electoral alliance with a highly unpopular PTI would hurt their chances in the upcoming local government elections.
For now, the powers that be have assured the two parties that there’s no compulsion but fears are mounting within the PSP and MQM-P that the friendly suggestion may turn into an order after the announcement of the election schedule. For them, the future does not look very bright if the PTI continues to be the establishment’s favourite.
Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2020