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Muttahida at the crossroads

Published Apr 14, 2013 02:32am


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Supporters listen to telephonic speech of MQM chief Altaf Hussain. –File Photo

Despite almost three decades in the political arena, nationwide appeal has eluded the Muttahida Qaumi Movement while it has failed to shake off the ‘ethnic’ tag. Also, a reputation for strong-arm tactics still follows it.

Going into the 2013 polls, it seems the MQM is in a stagnant position, whereby it is in little danger of losing the number of seats it secured in the national and Sindh assemblies in the last elections, while there are slim chances of it bringing in a much larger haul this time around. The MQM seems comfortable with the assumption that its hold over urban Sindh is relatively secure.

The party remains centrally controlled — from London that is — with Altaf Hussain in charge. However, there were rumblings earlier this year when Ishratul Ibad, the Sindh governor, tendered his resignation after the MQM left the PPP-led coalition. The rumour mill had it that Altaf Hussain wanted Mr Ibad to resign, yet the governor, through deft manoeuvring, managed to retain the post he has held since 2002. Nine Zero, of course, termed such talk “malicious analyses”.

Before that, the political scene in Pakistan was shaken by Dr Imran Farooq’s murder in London in 2010. Long considered the original brains behind the MQM phenomenon, the party’s former convener was reportedly planning to pursue an independent political career.

The MQM enjoyed a love-hate relationship with the PPP — what some would describe as a marriage of convenience — which finally ended in a divorce with the Muttahida bidding the PPP adieu in February this year, after sharing almost five years in power.

Yet it was a stormy relationship, which began — after the MQM supported Yousuf Raza Gilani’s prime ministerial vote of confidence back in 2008 — with much fanfare. Asif Ali Zardari, then still only the PPP co-chairman and not president of the republic, made a memorable visit to Nine Zero in April 2008. It appeared that all was forgiven and forgotten. But perhaps not.

The MQM threatened to leave the coalition on several occasions over various issues, including fuel prices, rolling back of the local government system, imposition of reformed general sales tax and, what it claimed was the PPP’s support for the Lyari-based People’s Amn Committee.

The Supreme Court’s verdict in the Karachi violence suo motu case was a sobering moment for the party, as the apex court suggested the MQM, as well as other political players, were willing to use violence in order to dominate Karachi. The past five years saw plenty of violence; there were vicious turf wars between elements allied to the Muttahida and those apparently supporting the Awami National Party.

Yet a point came when the ANP and MQM were confronted by a common enemy in Karachi: the ‘Taliban’. The MQM had been crying itself hoarse over creeping ‘Talibanisation’ in the city, yet it was dismissed at the time as ethnic scaremongering. The party saw two of its provincial lawmakers (Raza Haider and Manzar Imam) apparently targeted by religious militants, while the ANP too saw itself systematically uprooted by the extremists from many parts of Karachi.

Ultimately, if the MQM can convince the electorate it is a multi-ethnic, progressive and non-violent force which seeks to empower the working and middle classes, its efforts to expand beyond urban Sindh may bear fruit. Yet much remains to be done on this front.


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Comments (11) Closed

aziahmed63 Apr 14, 2013 10:48am
Ghunda raj can never prevail.......Although Mustafa kamal did an amazing job for karachi as a Nazim , I salute him for that and he will be the only person getting my vote for MQM....Long Live Pakistan.
Bhatty Apr 14, 2013 11:12am
During the last five years MQM showed time and again that their interest to stay in power is the sole objective of its politics. MQM can not survive as political party on long term when it is constantly run by a single person who is sitting abroad and giving instructions. Alliance with the most corrupt government in the history of Pakistan over a period of five years clearly demonstrate that the party is playing it cards for extracting as much benefits as possible form the sitting government and does not have any policy or vision on the future of its Muhajir community. Losing the election in 2013, which is very clearly written on the wall will make MQM very vulnerable party in terms of having any place in the politics on national level. It is just a matter of time when MQM will again become Muhajir Quami Movement. Wait for the results of the upcoming election.
Farah Aamir Apr 14, 2013 04:27pm
Looking back MQM has been one of the biggest disappointments from a common Pakistani's perspective. I lived in Karachi during the 90s during my O levels and all I can remember are strikes and violence. Despite the near religious devotion of their voters I would encourage them to do some introspection. What has MQM achieved for Karachi in the past two decades ? They have been in the powers of corridor consistently and yet have nothing to show for their years in power. If they had made Karachi a model city with decreased crime, increased economic opportunity for all their stature would be unparalleled in Pakistan. People are desperate for change and for someone who can deliver but their track record leaves a lot to be desired.
Sab Se Pehle Pakistan Apr 14, 2013 05:48pm
Don't know about rest of Pakistan but we people of Karachi and Hyderabad are with MQM and will always be with MQM. The only true representative of common man of Pakistan. Other can live with "ism" in their hearts and make as many false allegations as they want. Come to Karachi have a look these MNA's and MPA's all are from middle and lower middle class. In terms of intellect they have highly educated individuals ranging from top barristers to people like the late Dr. Mohammad Ali Shah. The only party who has ever done any development in Karachi and Hyderabad is MQM. Good luck to the rest of Pakistan. Go ahead nominate and live with you feudal lords and SHARIF people of Pakistan and help them make billions again through corruption.
mumtaz hussain Apr 15, 2013 12:37am
Those who think that mqm will lose 2013 elections are living in a paradise of fools. We, people of karachi love mqm and its leader altaf hussain. It is the only party in Pakistan who represents middle class community
Khota Apr 15, 2013 01:09am
Administration of Mustafa Kamal and co. proves their are good persons in every community. In the corollary, their are terrible people in every community as well.
jamishah Apr 15, 2013 01:13am
Thank you Mr. Editor
Yawar Apr 15, 2013 01:54am
MQM is no different from PML-N, PTI or PPP where the head of the party is more like a King that cannot be challenged by his party members. This setup is deeply rooted in our psyche and does not help democracy. For democracy to succeed in Pakistan, every five years, before the main elections, each party should be required to hold elections and the party members allowed to elect their chairman who should not be allowed more than two terms.
Abu-Salmaan Apr 15, 2013 03:00am
Altaf Hussain living in England and playing politics in Pakistan for Pkistan can never be a patriot and a national politician. He is only serving foreign interests with the help of his supporters. Why can't he come to Pakistan and face the charges against him?
Akil Akhtar Apr 15, 2013 03:29am
keep living in your denial as well.
Karachitte Apr 15, 2013 05:59am
MQM has been the only political party that has provided the common lower, lower-middle and middle class man to reach the assemblies. For arguments sake, if I agree that Altaf Hussain is an all-autocratic leader with centralized power and control of the decision making process, can someone explain to me why has he allowed the common man to attain political power and rule himself (Through a self-governing model of the local government)? Why not distribute election tickets to your cronies and family members? (Hint hint- PMLN ad PPP) How about someone take a look at MQM's rule during Musharrafs era with Mustafa Kamal as the mayor? MQM's interior minister? Record development and construction, receiving global recognition and rewards. Prevalence of relative peace and stability. Just because MQM attained mandate in the 2008 election does NOT mean that they had executive power to make key decisions for Karachi and Sindh in the last four years. But the critics then claim- Why did the MQM had to sit in government (with useless portfolios) the past four years, and leave and rejoin at multiple occasions. For that, my friends, you need to realize the dynamics of Sindh. History has taught us that the urban-rural divide in Sindh has been prevalent. It has been the need of the hour that the traditional Sindhis and the Muhajjir Sindhis are provided with an opportunity to bond, and I personally feel MQM (perhaps unwillingly) had to sit with PPP to promote this brotherhood. Although it had to face tough criticism, the past 5 years saw the occurrence of a relative harmonious co-existence between Muhajjirs and Sindhis.