Headless chicken

Since the ouster of Altaf, the MQM is behaving like a headless chicken as most of the second tier party members lack leadership qualities

The very political appeal on which the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) alias the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had thrived all these years had an inbuilt sun-set dimension as those who migrated from India to Pakistan following partition had lost their claim to the refugee (Mohajir) status as soon as they had taken up Pakistani citizenship.

And since the subsequent generations of these migrants had become as much sons of the soil as those that were living in these parts of the subcontinent since even before partition it was oxymoronic on the part of the former to still call themselves ‘Mohajirs’ or for that matter to be called so by the latter.

Of course, nobody can refute the immense sacrifices in life and property that the first generation of these migrants from India had made while crossing over to Pakistan wading through a sea of blood and gore. And that the original sons of the soil had welcomed them initially with open arms is also an undeniable truth.

And at least during the first 15 years of independence these first generation migrants while still engaged in the relocation and rehabilitation process with decidedly significant help from the evacuee property Act of 1950 had become an essential integral part of the country’s ruling elite represented more than adequately in Pakistan’s politics, business and civil-military bureaucracy. And the fact that Karachi, the city where most of them preferred to settle down was the capital of the country at the time had added to their sense of pride and ownership.

The establishment had looked the other way while Altaf ruled urban Sindh using mafioso tactics, because every time it had sought his assistance in pursuing any particular political agenda of its own he delivered without fail

However, around the mid-60s a number of events had started taking place which made these first generation migrants feel that they were being deliberately discriminated against. While they were still recovering from the bloody aftermath of the defeat of Fatima Jinnah at the hands a military usurper in an electoral contest for the office of Presidency in which they had helped the Quaid’s sister win from their city, they learnt to their utter dismay Field Marshal Ayub Khan’s decision to shift the capital from Karachi to Islamabad. And when the process of shifting was completed in 1966 they had probably felt their self-perceived politically inherited right to be part of those in the driving seat in the new country was being unjustifiably snatched away from them.

And the ethnic riots that followed the passage of the Sindhi language bill by the PPP-led provincial government in July 1972 had introduced the first urban-rural fault-line in Sindh thus creating what had appeared to be a permanent political fissure between the new and old Sindhis separated by a common national language — Urdu.

It was General Yahya Khan’s martial law government which had introduced a quota system for Sindh according to which the rural and urban population was given 60% and 40% representation in services on the recommendations of the then martial law administrator of Sindh. The 1973 Constitution had merely protected the already prevalent quota system but most Urdu speaking urban new Sindhis wrongly blamed it on the late Prime Minister ZA Bhutto, a Sindhi by birth who they thought had done it deliberately to promote Sindhi language at the cost of their mother tongue.

It was around this time that feeling a genuine sense of being pushed to the wall Altaf Hussain, Dr. Imran Farooq and Azeem Tariq launched the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organization (APMSO) in June 1979 ostensibly to help protect the interests of ‘Mohajir’ students especially those seeking admission in Karachi University.And in March 1984 the APMSO evolved into Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM) a full- fledged political party.Ghous Ali Shah the then Chief Minister of Sindh has claimed on a number of occasions that he was instrumental in the formation of MQM.

The military regime of General Ziaul haq which had forcibly suppressed by 1983 the PPP backed18-month long Movement for Restoration of Democracy (MRD) a non-violent political movement rooted in rural Sindh probably found in the MQM an organization which with some help from the establishment would successfully keep at bay the PPP from re-emerging as a political force in the country and also help keep Pakistan’s commercial hub, Karachi from falling into the hands of any of the mainstream political parties.

Since then onwards Altaf Hussain politically dominated urban Sindh first by promising the Urdu speaking new Sindhis the very Moon failing which he began using terror tactics to keep his ‘supporters’ from abandoning the Party. Anyone who challenged him within the Party would be physically eliminated. The first Secretary General of the MQM, Azeem Tariq was his first well-known victim. He was killed in May 1993 and in 2010 Dr. Imran Farooq was brutally murdered by hired assassins in London.  Very early in the day his closest associates, Afaq and Aamir who headed his terror network had to go underground to escape his murderous wrath only to reemerge at the head of MQM Haqiqi in 1992.

The establishment had looked the other way while Altaf ruled the urban Sindh using naked Mafioso tactics because every time it had sought Altaf’s assistance in pursuing some particular political agenda of its own he had delivered without fail.

Still, at least on two occasions in the past the establishment had tried to bring Altaf under some kind of discipline. But on each occasion it was the establishment which in its own self-interest had to pull back and restore Altaf back along with his terror network.This time, however, it looks like the permanent end of Altaf and with him the Party too appears to be over.

Since the ouster of Altaf the MQM is behaving like a headless chicken as most of the second tier Party members lack leadership qualities and do not possess as well the terror network that Altaf Hussain had commanded as it has already been eliminated seemingly completely by the Rangers in order to finally defang Altaf.Currently the MQM is seemingly fragmenting fast and the confused attempts by the deep state to keep it intact for the rainy day seem not to be working.

The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad. He served as the Executive Editor of Express Tribune until 2014

Published in Daily Times, February 15th 2018.