Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Latest Outburst of Altaf Hussain and its fallout

August 24, 2016

 By Saeed Qureshi

The latest outburst of MQM chief Altaf Hussain has surpassed his previous anti-Pakistan and anti-army flare-ups. Besides raising anti-Pakistan slogans, he called upon the Muhajir community to attack media and TV channels which they did. One person died as a result of the mayhem created by the infuriated hooligans.

The curtain seems to be falling on MQM because of the dubious and eccentric role of its chieftain Altaf Hussain now having asylum in London. The leaders of almost all the political parties as well as the prime minister have condemned Altaf Hussain’ remarks against Pakistan. The Rangers have moved fast to raid and seal the headquarters of MQM at 9 zero and other branches of MQM in Karachi.

Pakistan’s interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan has announced to send references to the British government about hate speech and inciting violence by Altaf Hussain. The minister also declared to approach the British authorities against Altaf on two counts of money laundering and Imran Farooq’s murder case.

The MQM local leadership has dissociated themselves from the anti-Pakistan tirade of Altaf Hussain.  This unprecedented backlash from the government and army besides the MQM’s local leadership’ dissociation of their leader’s hate speech might relegate Altaf Hussain to the political oblivion and a local chieftain might emerge to lead the MQM.

Yet it would be better and advisable for the MQM cadres and Muhajir community to support Mustafa Kamal and join his party. Mustafa Kamal is a dissident of the MQM yet he is moderate and sensible, pragmatic and a patriot. He is termed as one of the most successful mayor of Karachi. He picked up the courage to oppose his unforgiving formal boss, Altaf Hussain. That is the only viable way-out for the MQM supporters and sympathizer to survive politically and dispense with the stigma of being a racial and regional party more favorably inclined towards India than Pakistan.  

MQM was founded in 1984 under the title of “Muhajir Qaumi Movement” that was renamed as Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 1997. its imprint in the minds of the people has been that of a kind of mafia or an entity of roughnecks or extortionists, a symbol of terror, revenge and bloodletting. It virtually rules Karachi like the notorious Assassins of the past.

It is alleged that the special death and terror squads of MQM kill, kidnap and torture their rivals including the critics from within the MQM fold. It gained enormous and unshakable political clout and grip in Sindh provincial government.

There is prevailing impression that the extortions or the obnoxious “Parchi (slip of paper) system” was first started by MQM to raise funds to become financially robust to carry out for political and apolitical activities. Over a period of 32 years the MQM has remained in power saddle of Sindh province in some form or the other. The mayors and local bodies officials mostly consisted of the MQM cadres.

There have been leaders or freedom fighters in various societies. They excelled and brought about revolutions and reforms because of exemplary behaviors, enlightened policies and projections as well as judicial use of force. Altaf Hussain is however made from a different clay. Terrorizing, victimizing, killing, arm twisting and brutalizing are his weapons to make headway. That is how he modeled MQM into a mafia entity and the most dreaded outfit in Pakistan. 

Undoubtedly Altaf Hussain has proven to be a great and unassailable master and unbending and strict lord of his party. He can summon the multitudes of Urdu-speaking Pakistanis and Muhajirs within a matter of hours and with one call. They all gather at a venue with their heads down and hands motionless unless raised to cheer or clap for the scathing tirade of their leader.

They sit rather motionless for hours together listening to his long, dreary and high-pitched discourses as if they are bewitched or mesmerized. There is a gossip that anyone who does not clap or come to the assemblage is dealt with vindictively.

Also on a previous occasion he demanded separation of Karachi from Pakistan which meant truncation of Pakistan. He even earlier criticized the supreme court, army, media with vitriolic statements. In a speech made in India he said that “Division of the subcontinent was the biggest blunder in the history of mankind”.

Several pioneering cohorts and companions including Imran Farooq are alleged to have lost their lives in all these years ostensibly due to their opposition of the ruthless leader with symptoms of indiscretion. Their names are in the public knowledge.

The MQM captures most seats in Karachi both for the National Assembly and for the Sindh provincial assembly. These seats in the distant past used to be shared by Jamaat-i-Islami and some other political factions. But for many years now majority of these are exclusively bagged by MQM.

With a sizable number of seats in the federal and provincial parliaments, the MQM gathers enough bargaining clout and leverage to share the power at the center and in Sindh. The latest show of their bargaining power was brought to bear in case of their coalition with the PPP government in the national assembly for almost five years with some brief walkout periods.

The MQM has been playing its bargaining card with great dexterity and with a mix of pressure and fear hanging upon the main coalition partner. Thus it would be in a decisive position always to draw as many perks and concessions that it would place on the table for becoming the coalition partner.

The MQM’s political behavior for all these years has been to browbeat and flex its muscles whenever its hegemony was challenged by other groups within the context of Karachi and broadly in Sindh. A shrewd and Machiavellian person like president Zardari has always been going extra mile to accommodate MQM’s demands not matter how unreasonable or excessive those would be.

It would be absolutely preferable if MQM sheds its image of being a rogue entity and Altaf Hussain elevates his role from an ethnic boss to that of a national leader. Instead of donning an insidious role like Bal Thackeray or eyeing on what Sheikh Mujibur Rehman right or wrong achieved, he should liberate and unleash his own people from his fearsome stranglehold. He should speak and represent the people of Pakistan and not exclusively Muhajirs.

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