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.
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.