The Walk­ing Vol­cano

Southasia - - Front page - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

The last Sun­day of Au­gust wit­nessed an un­prece­dented spec­ta­cle at the Karachi Press Club. The way Dr. Zul­fiqar Mirza, PPP se­nior vice pres­i­dent of Sindh, MPA from Badin and se­nior min­is­ter in the Sindh govern­ment spoke and acted at his press con­fer­ence, earned him the moniker of “Hur­ri­cane Mirza” from The Ex­press Tri­bune. Oth­ers called him “Vol­cano Mirza,” be­cause what flew from the crater for about two hours were red-hot rocks. The tar­gets were Altaf Hus­sain and Rah­man Ma­lik.

The tsunami of in­vec­tives at the two in­cluded the fol­low­ing: “Rah­man Ma­lik is a born, one hun­dred per cent liar. Ma­lik sup­ports tar­get killers. If the coun­try came to any harm it will be due to Ma­lik. Altaf Hus­sain said to me that with U.S. as­sis­tance he would sep­a­rate Karachi and that he would wipe away the Pathans. MQM is be­hind all killings. MQM trans­ported arms in its KKF am­bu­lances. The cit­i­zen po­lice li­ai­son com­mit­tee chief is al­lied with MQM.”

The out­burst was Mirza’s re­ac­tion to the para­mil­i­tary op­er­a­tion in Lyari launched un­der Rah­man Ma­lik’s or- ders, de­spite Mirza’s strong op­po­si­tion. To re­in­force his cre­den­tials he also an­nounced his res­ig­na­tion from all the three of­fices amidst thun­der­ous ap­plause by his sup­port­ers who had fol­lowed him to the venue.

En­cour­aged by how his speech had stunned the au­di­ence, he re­peated the sce­nario at the Hy­der­abad Press Club two days later. This time he widened his field of at­tack to in­clude the U.S. “The MQM is armed to the teeth with 150,000 AK-47 Kalash­nikovs, around 15,000 rocket launch­ers, anti-air­craft guns, anti-tank mines and mor­tars and is now in the process of procur­ing nu­clear weapons with the help of Un­cle Sam,” he said, adding that “Un­cle Sam was look­ing for a cruel, ruth­less and sor­did en­tity in Pak­istan, which would be ready to sell the coun­try’s honor and dig­nity. They found it in a party which said ‘give me $500 mil­lion and fin­ish ISI and we will do what­ever you want,’ such as al­low­ing Black­wa­ter and other groups and also to oc­cupy Iran.”

Like at the Karachi Press Club, Mirza once again raised a hard cover copy of the Qu­ran over his head the­atri­cally to shore up his ve­rac­ity.

A few days later he spoke to a crowd at Ghag­gar Phatak on his way from Badin to Karachi, claim­ing he had is­sued “300,000 arms li­censes to the Sindhi peo­ple” and urged them “to use these weapons against the MQM, if they kill any Sindhi or other in­no­cent (per­son).” He asked the MQM lead­er­ship to ‘kill him’ if they want to stop him from un­earthing the ‘facts’ against MQM. At one point he asked the crowd, “What you will do if they kill me,” then him­self sug­gested to kill “at least 50 peo­ple in re­venge.”

Zul­fiqar Mirza has even taken to im­i­tat­ing Zul­fikar Bhutto, tear­ing his shirt and bar­ing his chest dur­ing his speeches. As be­fore the gim­mick is work­ing. His pop­u­lar­ity has soared among eth­nic Sind­his, some even call­ing him “Sher-e-Sindh” (lion of Sindh). Sev­eral of his former col­leagues in the govern­ment have also ex­pressed their sup­port for him, be­sides the ANP, MQM (Haqiqi), Sindh Dost It­te­had (SDI), Sindh National Party (SNP), PPI, and de­funct Peo­ples Aman Com­mit­tee (Lyari), whose ac­tivists re­ceived him at the Ghaghar Phat­tak.

Mirza’s core de­mand in his speeches is that PPP should end all at­tempts

at rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with MQM and the Sindh Gov­er­nor, who is from MQM, be re­moved.

Mean­while, in an in­ter­view to a pri­vate TV chan­nel he dis­closed hav­ing a two-hour meet­ing with ISI chief Gen. Shuja Pasha a few days ago dur­ing which he handed over ev­i­dence against the MQM based on doc­u­ments which he had car­ried with him in a brief­case. He claimed fur­ther that it was his sec­ond meet­ing with the ISI chief, held with the knowl­edge (and con­sent?) of Pres­i­dent Zar­dari.

But Mirza is clever. He is care­ful to cover his flanks. The army, the ISI, Zar­dari and Bi­lawal are the ones to whom he swears al­le­giance time and again. He said in one speech that “the army and ISI have saved Pak­istan” and “I owe un­re­served al­le­giance to Be­nazir and Zar­dari.” And he com­pli­mented the ISI as a “well-or­ga­nized, pa­tri­otic and well-trained” en­tity that was “100 per cent ded­i­cated to the mother­land.”

He urged the peo­ple of Sindh to sup­port his strug­gle “to pro­tect the Pak­istan Army and Pak­istan from the anti-state el­e­ments’ con­spir­a­cies.” He urged the youth to play their role “for strength­en­ing the coun­try and sup­port­ing the Army.” He said that “those who op­pose the pres­i­dent should con­sider him as their en­emy” and asked the masses “to strengthen the hands of PPP chair­per­son Bi­lawal Bhutto Zar­dari and Pres­i­dent Zar­dari.”

But Mirza is Asif Zar­dari’s child­hood buddy and his “en­forcer,” who keeps er­rant PPP politi­cians in Sindh in line. A ma­jor­ity school of thought there­fore be­lieves that in a Machi­avel­lian move he has been un­leashed by Zar­dari to cor­ner the MQM. His ac­cu­sa­tions have forced po­ten­tial po­lit­i­cal suit­ors of the MQM like the PML (N) and the PTI, to dis­tance them­selves from the party and seek “pa­tri­otic” cover.

It is also ob­vi­ous that Mirza’s in­cen­di­ary out­bursts were clearly pro­grammed to steal the thun­der of Sindhi na­tion­al­ism that was gain­ing mo­men­tum af­ter PPP’s vac­il­la­tion on the lo­cal govern­ment is­sue.

The plan seems to have suc­ceeded ad­mirably on both counts. Sindhi na­tion­al­ists have been si­lenced. Driven into po­lit­i­cal iso­la­tion, the MQM was left with no op­tion but to re­main Zar­dari’s al­lies, on his terms, with no space for po­lit­i­cal black­mail. Ac­cord­ingly, when Altaf Hus­sain ad­dressed a coun­try­wide video con­fer­ence, to present his case, he spoke of al­liance with Zar­dari. It should not be long there­fore, for the MQM to re­join the govern­ment.

That there is no es­trange­ment be­tween the bud­dies is ev­i­dent from the fact that Mirza con­tin­ues as a mem­ber of the party and his wife re­mains the Speaker of the National Assem­bly. How­ever, the mas­sive surge in his pop­u­lar ap­peal in in­te­rior Sindh should give Zar­dari pause be­fore Mirza emerges as a po­ten­tial ri­val.

Dr. Zul­fiqar Mirza – pop­u­lar ap­peal.

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