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MQM-H bid to regain strongholds sows fear

January 18, 2012

KARACHI, Jan 17: Although it is more than 20 kilometres from Karachi’s ‘red zone’ — the official term for a high-security area in the southern district of the city — Landhi No 6 is also a heavily guarded city area these days. What is a common sight in the densely populated locality is the presence of Rangers mobile vans and police armoured vehicles.

Most trusted workers of the party are seen frequenting the narrow and otherwise quiet street which houses the residence of Mohajir Qaumi Movement chief Afaq Ahmed. He has largely stayed indoors since his release last month after more than seven years of incarceration.

But his party seniors are desperately trying to revive the organisation, assembling new faces, mostly low-profile dissidents of certain political parties, having hardly any political following in Karachi. What remains to be seen is the MQM-H’s relationship with the rival Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) — both parties having being blamed for the bloody political history of Karachi.

“Before predicting or speculating anything, we want back our offices taken over by the Muttahida more than seven years ago,” says Shamshad Ghori, the vice chairman of the party better known as MQM-Haqiqi.

“At least 300 unit offices of ours are yet to be restored to us. We need them badly to revive our organisational structure and carry on our activities. We were forced to abandon them due to a state operation against us.”

Mr Ghori does not seem hinting at any situation that might bring his party at odds with the MQM. His views do not suggest any major ambition for the party, which wants to get back a few ‘strongholds as in the past’.

“Before the operation was launched against our party some eight years ago, we had strongholds in Malir, Landhi, Korangi, Shah Faisal Colony, Lines Area, Liaquatabad and some other localities. We want our offices in these areas back so that we can resume our political work,” he says.

Though the MQM-H has failed to make a major impact on general and local government elections whenever it participated in them, political analysts and people aware of Karachi’s violent history since the mid-1980s recognise the Mohajir Quami Movement as a ‘Haqiqi (real) factor’, which appears to have regained confidence after the recent release of its chairman.

Having strained relations with the city’s largest mandate holders, a recent support had come from a breakaway group of the ruling Pakistan People’s Party. A tilt towards the party by anti-MQM political forces is the only factor that put spotlight on the MQM-H. But these are matters of least concern for the MQM, says a minister.

“We don’t even consider Haqiqi a legitimate political force,” said Syed Faisal Ali Sabzwari, a Sindh minister and the MQM’s deputy parliamentary leader in the provincial assembly. “So, our commenting on their concerns, issues or complaints doesn’t make any sense.”

If one goes by electoral history, the MQM should not have any sense of threat from their rivals, as the ‘Haqiqi’ has only once in its electoral life won a seat each of the national and provincial assemblies and that, too, from its party headquarters constituency. In the 2002 general election, MQM-H candidate Mahmood Qureshi won NA-255 seat with 31,096 votes and Younus Khan won PS-122 with 24,237 votes.

But what worries the Karachiites and is yet to be analysed by political pundits is whether the two parties can coexist. Many people have been unable to scratch from their memories the scary events the city witnessed due to what is largely believed to be their rivalry.

“I don’t think there would be any impact of the Haqiqi on Karachi polls whenever they are held,” said journalist Mohammed Hanif. “But regarding the second issue, which is crucial, one can only hope that they carry on peacefully with coexistence. Otherwise, as history suggests, there won’t be good days ahead. Everyone is well aware of the bloodshed and violent history of Karachi.”