THE spectacle playing out inside a London courtroom shines a light on the struggle for control of the assets of the once united MQM. Once an electoral behemoth in urban Sindh, the party today is faction-ridden and no longer the vote-getter it once was. Part of its popularity was based on a genuine, loyal vote bank, while much of it was the result of a violent, toxic politics enforced by the gun. The case in question involves seven or so properties located in upmarket parts of the British capital, reportedly worth over £10m, and was filed by Aminul Haque, currently a federal minister and leader of the MQM-Pakistan, the Bahadurabad-based faction that formed after the party split following Altaf Hussain’s 2016 controversial speech. It was after this episode that the establishment decided to clip the MQM’s wings. The MQM-P is apparently interested in gaining control of the expensive real estate for the benefit of “poor and needy people”, and the trial has brought the MQM founder face to face with his acolytes-turned-nemeses, as he tries to retain control over the properties. In a related matter, as reported exclusively in this paper, efforts were underway to reunite two of the factions of the MQM: Bahadurabad and Mustafa Kamal’s PSP, while the powers that be were also reportedly open to the idea of rehabilitating some London-based leaders.
Regarding the property matter, the UK courts can best decide the merits of the case. However, it beggars belief as to how a self-professed middle-class party was able to snap up some of the choicest real estate in London. Mr Hussain has said “ordinary workers” had given him the properties. Yet it is quite possible that the pricey real estate was purchased not through chanda (donations) but bhatta (extortion). During its nearly three-decade stranglehold over Karachi, the MQM had perfected the art of shaking down the citizens of this hapless city to fund its operations. Therefore, it must be asked how the MQM raised millions of pounds, and how the funds reached London. A legitimate money trail needs to be established. Where the reported political engineering is concerned, as the lately retired army chief indicated, the military has said adieu to interference in politics. We hope the new chief, with specific reference to urban Sindh, sticks to this position. An artificial, and indeed pliable, ‘dry-cleaned’ leadership should not be foisted upon Karachi. Let an organic, democratic leadership emerge from Pakistan’s biggest city.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2022