For Whom the Bell Tolls

The na­tion not seems to be in a mood to for­give MQM leader Altaf Hus­sain for some of his ut­ter­ances.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By J En­ver

When MQM Leader Altaf Hus­sain made a tele­phonic ad­dress on the night of April 30 and May 1 in re­sponse to the press con­fer­ence that po­lice SSP An­war Rao had held a few hours ear­lier, the Pak­istan Army did not wel­come Altaf Hus­sain’s words with any glee. In fact, Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Asim Saleem Ba­jwa de­scribed the speech as ‘dis­gust­ing’ and said legal pro­ceed­ings would be ini­ti­ated against the MQM leader for mak­ing sedi­tious al­le­ga­tions against the Pak Army.

An im­me­di­ate out­come of the speech was that PEMRA is­sued a show cause no­tice to 14 TV news chan­nels for broad­cast­ing the speech. It later is­sued in­struc­tions that all live pro­grams be broad­cast with the help of a time de­lay de­vice while a ban was also slammed against TV pro­grammes that may con­tain con­tent go­ing against the ju­di­ciary, Pak­istan Army and var­i­ous law en­forc­ing agen­cies.

While Altaf Hus­sain later ten­dered an apol­ogy over his overnight state­ment about the MQM al­legedly seek­ing help from RAW, the dam­age had al­ready been done. A wave of

sym­pa­thy for the MQM that was ear­lier cre­ated by SSP An­war Rao’s un­called for re­marks about ban­ning the party were brought to naught by the way the MQM chief be­rated the Pak­istan Army in his late night speech.

Things were not look­ing good ever since the raid by the Pak­istan Rangers at the MQM Nine Zero head­quar­ters on March 11. How­ever, much party pride was re­stored when the MQM suc­cess­fully con­tested the by-elec­tions in NA-246 against the PTI and il and was vic­to­ri­ous by a large mar­gin. What the MQM needed to do af­ter this elec­tion was to build on this victory and demon­strate how it gen­uinely rep­re­sented the peo­ple of Karachi.

That MQM went into the by­elec­tion with a lot of trep­i­da­tion, based on the fact that de­spite its huge fol­low­ing, it had never served the peo­ple of Karachi in any solid man­ner ex­cept in the days when Mustafa Ka­mal was the Karachi Nazim (Mayor) and had worked tire­lessly to im­prove the city’s road and wa­ter sup­ply in­fra­struc­ture. It is an­other thing that Mustafa Ka­mal’s ten­ure hap­pened to fall within the pe­riod when Gen. Pervez Mushar­raf was the Pres­i­dent of Pak­istan and he pro­vided an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment to Mustafa Ka­mal to com­plete Karachi’s var­i­ous devel­op­ment projects.

It is a fact that while the MQM has ruled over Karachi since the mideight­ies and has claimed to be a party of ur­ban Sindh, it has failed to give to the peo­ple the sort of devel­op­ment, se­cu­rity and jobs that they ex­pected. The MQM started out by play­ing the Mo­ha­jir (In­dian im­mi­grant) card and ex­ploit­ing the fact that the Mo­ha­jirs had been ren­dered un­fair treat­ment by the quota sys­tem. De­spite this ar­gu­ment, the Mo­ha­jirs have re­mained as ex­ploited and de­mor­al­ized as they ever were. If the Mo­ha­jir youth sub­se­quently suc­ceeded on the aca­demic or pro­fes­sional fronts, they did it on the ba­sis of their own in­tel­li­gence and ini­tia­tives and had noth­ing to do with the MQM. As op­posed to that the MQM suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing a sense of alien­ation and doubt be­tween the Mo­ha­jirs and Pak­istan’s re­main­ing pop­u­la­tion, es­pe­cially that of the Pun­jab.

The MQM al­ways claimed to be a voice of the lower and mid­dle classes but it tran­spired over the years that its very lead­ers grew in pros­per­ity and wealth and came to join the coun­try’s mon­eyed classes who spent their lives in com­par­a­tive luxury as com­pared to the masses. Altaf Hus­sain pro­ceeded to the UK some three decades back and has con­tin­ued to re­side there in rel­a­tive com­fort and se­cu­rity while his mil­lions of fol­low­ers have been left to fend for them­selves in the ur­ban slums of Karachi, Hy­der­abad, Sukkur, etc.

Even then, the MQM has a cul­ture of strict dis­ci­pline and mass con­tact that no other party has. It is not clear why a per­son like Na­bil Gabol, a Sar­dar of the Baluch peo­ple in his own right, joined the MQM? Ev­ery ma­jor leader of the MQM spends time at the Nine Zero head­quar­ters of the party dur­ing the week and also vis­its his re­spec­tive con­stituency. Na­bil Gabol hes­i­tated in do­ing this and it was such be­hav­iour, plus his fall­ing out with cer­tain lead­ers of the MQM, that led to his res­ig­na­tion. It is ob­vi­ous that the party has no place for such ‘elit­ists’. How­ever, it is also a fact that the ap­proach of the MQM lead­ers of ‘stay­ing in touch’ with their sup­port­ers across all con­stituen­cies does not trans­late into so­lu­tions for their prob­lems and they re­main as de­prived and down­trod­den as they ever were.

If the MQM claims to be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of ur­ban Sindh it must prove this not by word but by ac­tion. Thanks to the in­ac­tion of other par­ties like the PPP and PML-N and the dis­or­ga­nized ap­proach of the PTI, the MQM still has an op­por­tu­nity to build on its vote bank and lead the peo­ple to­wards true devel­op­ment and se­cu­rity. The time has come for it to rid it­self of the crim­i­nal el­e­ments in its ranks and serve the peo­ple on a gen­uine ba­sis. If it fails to do this, the time is not far when oth­ers will fill the space.

The writer is a jour­nal­ist with spe­cial in­ter­est in po­lit­i­cal and so­cial is­sues.

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