The Lion’s Den
The MQM has delivered very good results in the by-election for a National Assembly seat – but is it ready to take the people to new successes in the future?
As was predictable MQM won the by- election in Karachi’s NA- 246, a constituency where MQM’s supremacy is firmly entrenched. PTI stood out as the second best. For PTI the lesson learnt was that, ‘ you don’t go to a lion’s den and tell him that his breath smells bad.’ MQM was never going to lose from this constituency and it never will for a long time to come. What matters most today is the answer to the question – post-MQM victory –‘ What is the future of this party and will it continue to lay its strong stakes to rule Karachi in future as well?’
PTI promised while the MQM had already delivered. The former gave hope while the latter had already been judged. Despite the media trial and the ongoing military operation that nabbed many culprits from the heartland of MQM – the vicinity of Nine Zero - the MQM voters gave a verdict in favor of their party with a thumping majority, thus giving a clear message to everyone that MQM is a political reality that is here to stay.
Over the years flip- flopping in and out of the Sindh government, yet remaining a part of every government, MQM showcases a Pakistani record of some sorts – longest tenure of a governor in any province. MQM has as its ‘ performance marker’ the current state of Karachi, the biggest metropolis in the country – unquestionably in dire
states. The marker is there for all to see and so is MQM, the party which is accused of having contributed to making Karachi what it is today – a land of fear where target killers, murderers, land grabbers, kidnappers, extortionists and terrorists abound. The military operation in Karachi and the resultant improvement in the security conditions and the return of confidence of the general public in the security forces changed the political equilibrium and the election in NA-246 was conducted on a level playing field - something that was unthinkable a few years back.
The question was how MQM would figure in the atmosphere of an electoral process that was free, fair and transparent? The answer is there for all to see. Despite the negative publicity that the party received as a result of the military operation and also the Scotland Yard investigations in the cases of money laundering and murder of Dr Imran Farooq, in which the party’s leadership stands accused. The MQM leadership still struck a chord with its voters who identified themselves as an ethnic community that draws all its benefits in the politics of ‘ ethnic collectivism.’ But will MQM prosper and do well in the next general elections if it continues to hold on to the same political thought/ concept? Chances are it may lose more political ground.
A common Karachiite now increasingly asks, ‘ If their culture is my culture, if their language is my language and if their lifestyle is my lifestyle, then what makes a mohajir ( immigrant) a mohajir?’ Why are the second and third generation of immigrants who were born and raised in Pakistan, still adamant about maintaining their distinctiveness and calling themselves Mohajirs?
Central to MQM’s political activity is the defence of its political idea and concept of being a ‘ migrant’. Despite the victory in NA- 246 the concept is fast losing weight and defending the concept itself will become a huge challenge for MQM in the future. MQM has developed a language to defend itself against all charges and justify what it claims is right and with this language it challenges and contradicts the charges and claims of all others. Even the post- election violence by MQM supporters in Karimabad was defended on the grounds that it was a ‘ reaction by the frustrated youth’. That was not a persuasive argument and held little appeal. The trouble with MQM is that it is not ready to accept any mistake and its spokesperson’s/ leadership’s lopsided attempts to defend accusations with unconvincing, lengthy and at times irrelevant arguments, are becoming less appealing, too boring and monotonous.
People have accused the MQM of being a fascist party. All parties are fascist if the individual will in them is molded into ‘ one will’, guided and directed from the top and in which the cost of showing dissent is huge. If conciliation, complacency and appeasement are the virtues that guide the second tier leadership of any party, let alone MQM, then politically that party will always struggle to grow and evolve. No wonder then that the MQM’s popularity is restricted to the province of Sindh.
There are conducts that are not permissible on the battlefield and there are also conducts that are not permissible on the political field. ‘ The end justifies the means’ as a concept can glorify a general on a battlefield but in politics, if the ‘means employed to achieve ends’ are foul and tainted, the end would never ever be glorifying. In a transformed political environment in which media watches and dissects every move of a politician, the political parties that don’t subscribe to ‘ moral and ethical values’ stand exposed.
This was seen in the case of Z.A. Bhutto and the social change he promised and it was seen in the case of General Ayub Khan, despite the development he promised and delivered. If the MQM also envisions a grand political future in this country than it will also have to act as ‘Muttahida Qaumi Movement’ and not just a ‘Mohajir Movement’. The cohesiveness, discipline and the collectivism that we find in MQM should not make it an ‘excluded community’ or the ‘migrant community’. Those who take pride in ‘shutting down Karachi’ on a moment’s call and sell the idea to their community by trumpeting that this happens because ‘Mohajirs matter’ only makes matters worse. By doing this they only proliferate and further the idea of their ‘exclusion’ rather than ‘inclusion’ in mainstream society. An average common mohajir is secular and rarely a hardliner in his beliefs and practices. It’s his leadership that compounds not only his but the party’s problems by continuing to sharpen the edges of the ‘mohajir ethnicity knife’ that not only cuts deep in harming democracy but also is the end point of any politics.
The conduct of the bye-election in NA -246 augurs well for the continuity of fair and free elections in future. Let’s hope that the future Karachi will be ruled by the will and consent of the people. May the people remain empowered in future as well to grant the most popular party the right to rule and to reverse the damage done to Karachi. May they also remain entitled to take back that privilege from those who fail to deliver and perform.
The writer is a retired lieutenant colonel of the Pakistan Army. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in civil- military relations.
An average common mohajir is secular and rarely a hardliner in his beliefs and practices.