The MQM seems to be caught between the devil and the deep sea.
MQM, which came into being as the Mohajir Qaumi Movement in 1984 and renamed itself as Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 1997 has always lived dangerously. If conspiracy theories are lent credence, MQM’s genesis is owed to former military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq who launched a political riposte to counter Pakistan People’s Party’s mass appeal post Z.A. Bhutto. Irrespective, MQM attracted large numbers of Mohajirs (settlers from India), who perceived themselves to be victims of discrimination by the quota system that gave preference to certain ethnicities for admissions in educational institutions and employment in civil services. MQM’s founder Altaf Hussain, a fiery orator and scion of a lower middle class family had gained prominence as a student of Karachi University as founder of the All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organization in late Seventies. The party has a certain nuisance value, since it manages to grab a sizable number of seats both in the national and provincial assemblies (where its hold is limited to urban Sindh only). Unable to lead either house independently, MQM uses its parliamentary presence to leverage for its own positioning in various coalition governments inviting
criticism for its policies of running with the hare and hunting with the hounds. Additionally, its militant wing has caused several crackdowns on MQM. Because of its tight stranglehold over Karachi, Pakistan’s financial capital, various internal and external forces have either challenged it in turf wars or courted it for their personal objectives.
Besides the use of force, counter balance has also been sought. In his book The Idea of Pakistan, Stephen Cohen suggests that MQM Haqiqi, a breakaway faction was created by the collusion of Pakistani Government in power and the Establishment/ISI to weaken MQM and was supported by successive federal governments and the military. In the years to come, federal governments switched between forming alliance with MQM and fighting against it to establish greater control over Karachi.
The 1992 “Operation Clean Up” left thousands of its workers dead or incarcerated and its leader Altaf Hussain has been in a self imposed exile in the UK since there are murder cases pending against him but he continues to control MQM remotely, drawing huge disciplined crowds even for his frequent telephonic addresses. It is ironic that in 1992, the MQM was accused of the “Jinnahpur Conspiracy”, i.e. plotting to form a separate state but later senior army officers—Brigadier Imtiaz former DG of Intelligence Bureau and General Naseer Akhtar, then Corps Commander—admitted publicly that Jinnahpur was "nothing but a drama" against MQM for the military operation and there was no map of Jinnahpur.
The US and UK have reportedly used MQM because in the heydays of the US/NATO operations in Afghanistan, the entire logistic support inclusive of weapons, food supply and auxiliary equipment was transiting from Karachi’s busy shipyards. MQM apparently facilitated a smooth transit. As Karachi turned into a hotbed of AlQaeda and Taliban fugitives, both the CIA and MI-6 found happy hunting grounds for their own covert operations and a close relationship with MQM may have sustained their operations.
Gradually, MQM came under the radar of international systems. In 2006, the Federal Court of Canada declared the MQM as a terrorist organization, prohibiting party members from visiting or residing in Canada, considering it a serious security threat to Canada. The Court declared MQM to be engaged in the harassment of opponents and using the proceeds of crime to fund the party. Matters became grievous when on 16 September 2010, Dr Imran Farooq, a senior MQM leader, also a British citizen, was murdered in London. Scotland Yard has been investigating the case and a number of suspects have been arrested in Pakistan and the UK. The situation worsened for MQM when In June 2014, the Metropolitan Police raided the London home of its leader, Altaf Hussain, on suspicion of money-laundering. It is paradoxical that on 22 November 2009, Pakistan government had released the limited list of beneficiaries of a legal act called National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), which granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of corruption, embezzlement, moneylaundering, murder and terrorism between 1 January 1986 and 12 October 1999, the period during democratic governments in Pakistan. None of the MQM personalities were included on charges of financial corruption although two of its senior leaders, Altaf Hussain and Farooq Sattar were named for their alleged involvement in numerous murder cases.
Even more damning was the recent BBC Report charging MQM members with receiving training in subversion and funds from the Indian intelligence agency RAW. The obvious question as to why the Brits, who were privy to RAW-MQM collusion disclosed by the alleged MQM whistleblower Tariq Mir in 2012, remained silent till now. The rationale as mentioned above: MI-6 was using MQM for its own gains, which had now become diminished.
The RAW-MQM nexus exposé has put India on the backfoot since it had moved the UN Sanctions Committee to take action against Pakistan for acquitting the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks Zakiur Rahman Lakhvi. Chinese veto blocked the Indian move but now India itself has been put on the defensive. The damaging BBC Report, Narendra Modi’s public pronouncement in Bangladesh of India’s role in the secession of East Pakistan and Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s affirmation that terrorists should be used to “neutralise terrorists” and India has been employing this strategy make a very plausible case against India. Pakistan should prepare its law-suit in consultations with the British government. Any half baked attempt can backfire hence a properly drafted dossier proving Indian machinations, which can stand the test of the International Court of Justice at The Hague, must be presented. Lessons should be drawn from the thirty plus dossiers of evidence presented by India implicating Pakistan in the Mumbai attacks; each of which was based on such flimsy evidence that the local judiciary rejected it.
As far as MQM itself is concerned, it should conduct its own accountability and black sheep if any who have colluded with the enemy or have engaged in unlawful acts, must be weeded out. The government of Pakistan should wait for the British legal system to take its course in the cases against Altaf Hussain. Those politicians, who have scores to settle with MQM, must desist from labeling it as traitors till proven guilty. Treason is a much abused word in Pakistani politics. One is reminded of the 1975 reference brought against the now defunct National Awami Party (NAP) in the Supreme Court. It was a case of personal vendetta by Bhutto against Khan Abdul Wali Khan and the judicial system dismissed the suit since evidence proved that the NAP leader was only guilty of having an irate temper. Leaders like Ghulam Mustafa Khar have claimed of marching in perched on Indian Army’s Tanks. Others too have issued unsavoury comments against the state or the army but the charge of treason is made of sterner stuff. Even US Presidents have not escaped being tarnished. Remember the Cold War era, when Senator Joseph McCarthy had accused Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman periods in office of "twenty years of treason." The indictment of MQM thus must come through a transparent legal process and not the media.