Time for the MQM to rethink


WEB DESK: Despite the recent high profile desertions in it, the MQM managed to stage an impressive show of strength at its Foundation Day events in Karachi and Hyderabad. As usual, its workers and supporters turned up in large numbers to hear the party supremo Altaf Hussain’s speech via a video link, demonstrating that despite the latest existential challenge it faces, its support base remains intact. In fact, this is not something entirely unexpected.

There is the example of the two mainstream parties, the PPP and the PML-N, which too went through phases of political engineering, suffering temporary setbacks only to re-emerge as strong players. The people tend to stay with the main party with which they identify for one reason or another. The MQM draws its appeal from taking up the issues that alienated the urban settlers in Sindh when in the 1970s the then government ordered the introduction (to withdraw the order later in the wake of language riots) of Sindhi as a compulsory subject in schools. To make a bad situation worse, a Sindh-specific law sowed seeds of further disaffection by reserving job quotas in government services for rural areas, putting the better educated Urdu-speaking community at a perpetual disadvantage in the job market. The sense of being discriminated against still rankles with the urban Sindhis, assuring loyalty to the party that professes to champion their rights.

That said, the problem is the fear factor the MQM has been employing to maintain control over the nation’s commercial capital, Karachi. Even though it denies running a militant wing, those in the media know very well how its activists used strong-arm tactics to silence any criticism of its policies. And reports are galore of MQM involvement in such grave crimes as targeted killings and extortion. Then there are insider accusations against the London-based leadership of receiving funds from an enemy country’s intelligence agency, RAW. The party, of course, rejects all allegations.

As regards the use of violence, at Friday’s event, Altaf Hussain, while making an indirect reference to the deserters, seemed to inadvertently acknowledge the allegation in a circuitous manner when he said that while the army was carrying out the Zarb-e-Azb operations, “known terrorists” were being patronised and given refuge in the Defence area. For the fact of the matter is that until they started renouncing their party during the current month, these “known terrorists” were members of the MQM. He went on to aver that past attempts at breaking up the party did not work, urging the Army leadership to turn the page. He needs to realise that a lot has changed since the 1990s when the previous two operations were conducted against the MQM.

For instance, independent electronic media – non-existent then – free of fear due to the ongoing security operations in Karachi constantly highlights the alleged involvement of MQM activists in targeted killings and other heinous crimes. And the relative peace that prevails in Karachi is widely recognised as a success of the Rangers action, putting pressure, unlike the past, on the government not to make any compromises.

It is about time the MQM read the writing on the wall and mends its ways. It needs to rethink its past policies and make sincere efforts to distance itself from militancy. It must also clear its name vis-a-vis the alleged RAW connection. No one should have any problem with the party if it decides to abjure violence and functions like any other political party.

Source: Business Recorder