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?

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By Muham­mad Ali Ehsan

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.

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