The soft revolt of Mr. Farooq Sattar, the second tier leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has dented the cohesion that was the hallmark of the political party which claims to be the voice of urban middle class in the city that is considered among the most populous in the world.
Visibly perturbed by the denunciation of Pakistan by their London based political chief, Mr. Sattar was flocked by his political comrades who explicitly refused to condone the agitated statements issued by Mr. Altaf Hussain from Edgware.
MQM fraught relationship with the State has a history spanning over more two decades but the considerable sway it still holds over the Urdu speaking support base is remarkably impressive. Waseem Akhtar, MQM’s candidate successful election for the Karachi mayor slot is a reflection of the trust bestowed upon the highly disciplined party politics by the local stakeholders.
The current situation is not rosy yet some conclusions that can be drawn is that Mr. Hussain’s megalomania and his unhealthy rancour has built up an extremely negative image of him within the party workers on high echelons. His authoritarian perversions reeking of outright insanity, at times, manifested in physical abuse of Karachi based party leadership at hands of local MQM supporters. Now, by iterating that Mr. Hussain’s decisions won’t have any influence, Mr. Farooq Sattar has played a clever million-dollar move, in turn saving the progressive and anti-feudalist political force of middle class masses.
A veteran journalist of a local newspaper, Mr. Nadeem Farooq Paracha has done commendable research to identify the malaise that is afflicting MQM. NFP believes that the crack within the party leadership are a derivative of two contrasting leadership ambitions among top cadres of MQM; the issue of integration with the larger non-Mohajir community or retention of exclusive identity based Mohajir politics.
Despite the reprisal that State has justly exacted over militants thriving within MQM, the progressive contribution and informed inputs of MQM legislators in parliament is also testament to the soft image of its political wing. Unfortunately, there is no wider acknowledgment of the fact that this soft political image was deliberately constricted by the insidious militant structure on behalf of Edgware. As this militancy problem is being dealt by the paramilitary force through heavy handedness, the space of dissent for MQM political workers is gradually widening. The formation of Pak Sarzameen Party by a notable detractor from MQM, Mr. Mustafa Kamal – who won accolades from the Karachi citizens due to his stint as a MQM nominated mayor in past – was the first significant blow that can be exemplified here. Yet still MQM held its ground. But the vocal non-compliance of Mr. Farooq Sattar has resounded out loud and has created doubt about the viability of MQM minus Mr. Altaf Hussain.
Though the question whether the connection between London and Karachi has totally severed due to the recent episode still lingers on the mind of the ordinary citizens, the State antipathy towards MQM militarism should be narrowed down to the negative elements within, rather than enforcing a complete ban on it to carry on its legitimate political activities. In Pakistan this illiberal approach of banning political parties has failed miserably in the past. If opted again, it could result in the roll back of tactical gains made by the State in uprooting the militancy that has seeped in Karachi’s political culture. Although the State is building its momentum very shrewdly but any callous judgement, at the time when optimistic realisation about good future prospects for Pakistan has started dawning, can crash the whole counter terrorism edifice in Karachi.
Talha Ibrahim heads the Research Division. His areas of expertise are Counter-Militancy, International Security and Geo-politics of Asia and Middle East. His work on the non-state actors has been incorporated in the discourses of notable militancy scholars. Talha is accredited in Conflict Analysis from the United States Institute of Peace and Terrorism Studies from the University of Maryland.