Whither MQM?

The MQM seems to be caught be­tween the devil and the deep sea.

Southasia - - CONTENTS - By S. M. Hali

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.

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