ID: 1107286/4/2007 12:42
E.O. 12958: DECL: 06/06/2017
TAGS: PK, PREL, PGOV
SUBJECT: MQM FEELING WOUNDED
REF: A. KARACHI 0401B. ISLAMABAD 02193 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: Charge d'Affaires Peter Bodde, Reasons 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) On June 1, Charge met with Minister of Ports and Shipping (and MQM member) Babar Khan Ghauri to discuss the May 11-13 violence in Karachi. Ghauri said the Karachi violence had “killed” the MQM's chances of gaining voters in Punjab province. The party was focusing on repairing its reputation in Karachi and Sindh.
2. (C) According to Ghauri, police and Sindh Rangers were stationed at key “buffer” points in Karachi on May 12, anticipating clashes between opposition and MQM activists. At around 2:00 a.m., the officers abandoned their positions. (Note: The Rangers, like the Karachi police, might have been under local orders not to intervene (ref A). End Note.) Ghauri reported that on May 13, after a phone call with Governor of Sindh Ishrat-ul-Ebad, President Musharraf ordered police and rangers onto the streets in Karachi. Ghauri also said Musharraf asked PML-Q coalition partners to maintain a public posture that would not cause undue political damage to the MQM. Regarding whether MQM head Altaf Hussain played any part in planning the violence, Ghauri said “No, absolutely not. We were trying to expand into Punjab; how would we have benefited from this?” (Note: Reliable Embassy and Consulate Karachi contacts believe that at the very least Hussain suspected there would be violence on May 12 and supported the MQM counter-rally in any case. End Note.)
3. (C) Comment: Ghauri confirmed what in-country MQM leader Farooq Sattar told us in a May 17 phone call (ref C): the events of May 11-13 in Karachi deeply wounded the MQM. Ghauri noted several times during the meeting that his party's leadership felt “alone” and that they were worried the PML-Q would abandon them. Indeed, a number of PML-Q contacts privately tell us they believe MQM was culpable for the events, and the PML-Q should distance itself from the MQM to prevent damage to its own reputation. Nevertheless, President Musharraf and some other government officials continue to blame the opposition and Chief Justice for the May 12 violence. Given that much of the public and media believe the MQM principally responsible for the violence, Musharraf's position could exacerbate his political problems.