MQM: the face of terror and crime?

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 09.03.16

Signs are now ubiquitous that the terror-spell casting a shadow on Karachi is dwindling,
even if it is not over in absolute terms. The rise of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)
in the late 1980s, in the name of safeguarding the rights of the mohajir (refugee)
community, is on decline. The last ditch efforts undertaken by deputy convener of the
MQM, Dr Farooq Sattar — to guard the last vestiges of party’s respect — to preserve the
semblance of a party are visible.

Mustafa Kamal, the ex-Mayor of Karachi, who started his career as a telephone operator
and went on to work with the MQM, established his credibility through performance in terms
of administrating the city of Karachi for five years (2005-2010), besides keeping his work
free of controversy. At that time, Kamal was the face of the MQM overshadowing allegations
against MQM, ranging from the acts of extortion to cold-blooded target killing. On March 3,
2016, through a two-hour press conference, Kamal deplored the evils of the MQM and
detached himself from it. The difference between any statement coming from MNAs or
MPAs of the MQM and Kamal is that the former are legislators while the latter is an ex-
administrator of an entire city that elect these legislators. Karachi produces dozens of
legislators but one mayor. Moreover, owing to the nature of job and interaction, a mayor is
a better reader of the people than a legislator. That is, all elected representatives from
Karachi on one side and single Kamal is on the other side is a balanced equation. Add the
factor of credibility to the equation and Kamal’s statements appear authentic.

Kamal articulated at least two new points. First, he appealed to the MQM to stop disowning
its workers after they finish the assigned task, be it the target killing of Shahid Hamid or Dr
Imran Farooq. Secondly, he appealed to the MQM Chairman Altaf Hussain to speak the
same truth to the MQM workers what he spoke at a London police station in his
confessional statement (that he obtained funding from the Indian intelligence agency,
RAW.) Kamal’s appeals were a reflection of the thinking going on in both intra-MQM and
intra-mohajir community. The undercurrent is not a minus-Altaf formula (as being
interpreted by the MQM) but the moral question of speaking truth, which makes these
appeals to have far-reaching consequences.

Kamal was also justified in saying that the mohajir community was beset with the crisis of
repute. It is about surviving honorably in the constellation of fellow communities. Owing to
the alleged deeds of the MQM, the mohajir community (which is considered solely
represented by the MQM) is lampooned through certain nicknames such as Nafsiati,
Pahari, Commando, Langra, Madhuri, Charya, Akoo, Goga, and Bhola — each alias
carrying the burden of a heinous crime. Zulfiqar Mirza, former home minister for Sindh,
highlighted this point aptly through his press conference conducted in September 2011.
Today, the name of the MQM is likened to the gang of extortionists, criminals, shooters,
murders and blackmailers, and the mohajir community faces the brunt of this impression.
Understandably, the problem may be where the MQM claims its ownership on the territory
of the mohajir community or the problem may be where the mohajir community surrenders
its right of voice to the MQM. In the press conference, Kamal showed his willingness to
revive the reputation of the mohajir community, and wanted them to have an alternative
political platform under whatever name.

One of the allegations against the MQM is that it does not hide its ‘brutal face’ but take
pride in it. On May 12, 2007, to please General Pervaiz Musharraf, the then president, the
MQM unleashed a reign of terror on the supporters, both lawyers and others, of the then
deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was visiting Karachi. This was
ostensibly a blow against the popular sentiment — restoration of the deposed judge —
sweeping across the country. May 12 left Karachi with about 50 people killed by shooting,
six lawyers burnt alive and about 150 people injured. The police and the rangers had been
stopped from intervention till 4pm (or evening). The deposed chief justice could not come
out of the airport and the lawyers could not stage their rally. There are stories supported by
evidence about the transfer of weapons by using ambulances by MQM workers. In short,
the MQM became successful in becoming the minion of Musharraf, who also hailed from the
mohajir community. In return, Musharraf publicly acknowledged the role of the MQM for its
May 12 acts to support his cause by a “show of strength.” That is, the chief of army had to
bank on the MQM to ensure his stay at the helm of affairs.

Retrospectively, it could be said if the MQM had not been allowed to do May 12, the MQM
could not have done September 11 (2012), the day when more than 250 labourers of the
Ali Enterprises, Baldia Town, were burnt alive. Reportedly, on failing to extort money, the
MQM workers locked the premises of the garment factory from outside, threw inflammable
chemical inside and set the whole factory on fire. Perhaps, it was overlooked that this is the
age of electronic media, which was in competition with itself to apprise the viewers first,
more and different. Media covered both May 12 and September 11 and informed the rest of
Pakistan about occurrences in Karachi. The rest of the developments such as empowering
rangers, broadcasting the video of Saulat Mirza, outrage of Zulfiqar Mirza and Kamal’s
renouncing the title of MQM membership are a sequel to the concern shown by the rest of

It is interesting to watch Dr Sattar defending the MQM position on every account of
revelation. Does Dr Sattar think that the listeners can be duped into believing in MQM’s
unending list of disclaimers? The rest of Pakistan is worried about the allegations of terror
and crime ravaging the body politics of Pakistan.

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