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Maneuvering MQM

The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) has been experiencing a roller-coaster ride ever since the military-backed Karachi operation was intensified by the law enforcing agencies last year. Presently the troubled political party is facing a serious existential challenge as the party defectors are readily jumping on anti-MQM bandwagon. These defectors are apparently trying to provide an alternative political forum to a particular ethno-linguistic community living in the urban Sindh. On the other hand, reacting to the recent allegations hurdled by the MQM defectors, MQM has accused the all-powerful military establishment of hatching 1992-like conspiracy against the party once again.

Last week, leveling serious anti-state and criminal allegation against MQM chief Altaf Hussain, the former Karachi mayor and important MQM leader Mustafa Kamal announced to form another political party in a two-hour long press conference in Karachi. He was accompanied by the former deputy convener MQM Rabita Committee Anees Qaimkhani. A few days later, ending his 28-year long association with MQM, the former Sindh health minister Dr. Sagheer has also joined Mustafa Kamal’s newly-formed political party. Now the former in-charge of MQM’s Karachi Tanzeemi Committee Hammad Siddiqui, who is also the most wanted alleged culprit in 2012 Baldia Town factory inferno case, has returned Pakistan to add to the woes of the ‘disturbed party’.

Since its very inception, the MQM, as a political party, has been entangled in different controversies and scandals. At times, it was charged with various criminal allegations. From its alleged role in planning the Jinnah Pur in 1990’s to the involvement in the 2012 Baldia Town Factory fire incident, a large number of serious allegations have been leveled against it. Many individuals have pointed their fingers at MQM for its connections with Indian intelligence agency RAW. It has also been accused of some high-profile assassinations in the city. Some of these allegations have also been substantiated by the confessional statements made by various alleged MQM’s target killers in Karachi at different times. However, MQM has always been managing to stay politically intact and active against all odds.

For almost a year, MQM has been facing one of the hardest times of its more than three-decade long existence. In February last year, the alleged involvement of MQM in 2012 Baldia Town inferno incident came into limelight when Sindh Rangers submitted a JIT report of the case in Sindh High Court. Subsequently, a lot of senior MQM leaders and activist openly pointed fingers at MQM chief Altaf Hussain for his involvement in various anti-state and criminal activists in Pakistan. After a long time, the LEA’s has forcefully conducted raids on MQM’s headquarters in Karachi. Last year, the Lahore High Court also ordered the PEMRA to put a complete ban on the broadcasting of speeches of Altaf Hussain in Pakistan.

Keeping in view their current vulnerable political position, the senior MQM leaders have observably changed their usual proactive and aggressive political posture to a purely defensive and apologetic one. Now they can be seen refuting the criminal charges leveled against the party leadership, and explaining the meaning and real context of Altaf Hussain’s’ public speeches most of the time. Similarly, for the time being, they also given up their oldest demand for creation of a separate Mohjir province by resorting to make a new demand for greater powers and administrative autonomy to the newly-elected local bodies representatives in the city.

Some recent significant developments in the country are clearly showing that now the noose around the neck of senior MQM leadership is going to be further tightened. The FIA has registered a criminal case against MQM chief Altaf Hussain in connection with the murder of former MQM leader Dr. Imran Farooq in London on the basis of confessional statements made by the arrested MQM activists. Likewise, the police has also submitted the fresh JIT report in the trial court in Baldia Town factory fire case nominating certain high-profile MQM leaders.

After 20 months, a larger bench of Supreme Court of Pakistan has also resumed the Karachi law and order implementation case. In this perspective, the sudden appearance of Mustafa Kamal in the political arena of Karachi is another severe blow to the troubled party.

It is a well-known fact that the military is actively supporting the LEA’s in curbing the criminal mafias in the city. Now it is generally believed that the military establishment is also the driving force behind the current anti-MQM maneuvering in the country. Previously, deliberate attempts were made either to marginalize MQM or make it simply irreverent politically in Pakistan. However, the landslide victory of MQM in last year’s by-elections and the subsequent local bodies elections significantly foiled such perceived attempts. Now it is being speculated that the all-power establishment is playing the typical pick-and-choose game to establish a new political force in Karachi by ‘purging’ the MQM of all undesirable elements. For this purpose, the defectors and dissidents like Mustafa Kamal are being extensively exploited.

Therefore, now only time will tell whether these attempts will succeed or simply fail as did in 1990’s.

Forcefully alleging their political persecution, MQM senior leaders are severely criticizing the current moves on the part of government to push them to the wall. Farooq Sattar, a Senior MQM parliamentary leader, has also demanded for a general amnesty for the party leaders in line with the Baluchistan insurgents. He has also claimed that most of the current allegations against MQM necessarily relate to the pre-2000 period in Karachi. However, these arguments hardy hold water as the law and order situation in the city in post-2000 period was by no means better than that of pre-2000 period. But instead, it has observably further deteriorated.

In fact, MQM has frequently been charged with having links with Indian intelligence agency RAW. Last year, BBC journalist Owen Bennett-Jones accused MQM of receiving funds from India. Similarly, the people like PPP’s former minister Zulfiqar Mirza and SSP Rao Anwar have also leveled similar allegations against MQM and its chief. Later, these allegations have been substantiated by various leaders and workers of MQM like Saulat Mirza, Tariq Mir etc. These facts have also been mentioned in various JIT’s prepared by the investigators of law enforcing agencies in Karachi. Now finally, the senior MQM party leaders, namely Mustafa Kamal and Anees Qaimkhani, have also corroborated these facts in their recent press conferences.

The current allegations against MQM are undoubtedly of serious nature which apparently amount to treason and subversion. Obviously these allegations need serious consideration. Indeed, no country can afford to allow any political party to act against its security, territorial integrity and national interests. Therefore, now the government of Pakistan should thoroughly probe these allegations. The formation of a high-powered judicial inquiry commission is quite advisable to ascertain the truth or falsehood of the allegations leveled against MQM independently and impartially. In this respect, PTI chairman Imran Khan has already demanded the formation of such inquiry commission.

In case the federal government finds some substance in these allegations, then it must proceed against MQM under section 15 of the Political Parties Order 2002. It allows the government to dissolve any political party which acts in a manner prejudicial to the sovereignty or integrity of Pakistan, or indulges in terrorism. And if these charges are found to be baseless, then the so-called media-trial of the MQM must be stopped forthwith. Since the FIA has registered Dr. Imran Farooq murder case in Pakistan, therefore federal government should seriously facilitate the investigation agency to legally conclude this case. Similarly, the Baldia Town factory fire and other high profile criminal cases should be investigated ad tried in accordance with the law promptly and diligently. Instead of considering the ‘minus one’ or ‘minus few’ sort of options vis-à-vis the MQM, the focus should be on letting the law take its due course in the country.

By Mohsin Raza Malik