Thursday, 6 December 2012
MQM and the coming storm
MQM and the coming storm
Dr Shabir Choudhry 05 December 2012
More than ten years ago a friend from Islamabad told me to join MQM. He said this party will play an important role in Pakistani politics and might help to resolve the Kashmir dispute as help. He said they will benefit from your wisdom, know - how and dedication and you will also get some rewards for the long life struggle for liberation of Jammu and Kashmir.
I declined this offer, because I did not agree with the MQM style of politics, although they have talented people among them and claimed to speak for the poor and less privileged people. The MQM at that time only represented ethnic politics based on interests of those who migrated from India to make Pakistan their new home. Apart from that I did not believe in interfering in internal affairs of Pakistan which was Kashmir’s neighbour and an occupier. I thought if I take part in the Pakistani politics, in a way I am justifying their interference in my country - Jammu and Kashmir
Anyhow, prediction of my friend proved to be correct. Whether the MQM could have benefitted by me joining them is highly debateable; but I could surely have benefitted from their influence and tremendous power which they exerted on politics of Pakistan in the last decade. Ordinary people with little education and insignificant political standing from Azad Kashmir and Gilgit Baltistan joined the MQM and became Ministers because of the MQM political muscle.
It won’t be exaggeration to say that the MQM became an important player in the politics of Pakistan and no government, elected or unelected could function smoothly without their support. There was absolutely no chance of running Karachi, financial hub of Pakistan without their good will and active support.
In my opinion, the MQM has seen its peak. In future, people will only talk of their best days, as their decline has already started. I have few friends in the ranks of the MQM and I told them last year that the year 2012 will be very testing for them and that they would face wrath of very powerful forces which would bring a disaster to Karachi. During this interaction I further said that there would be a blood bath in which tens of thousands of innocent people could perish. My friend said that they were also ready as they have no choice but to fight back for their survival.
Although Karachi witnessed unprecedented trouble and bloodshed; however my prediction about disaster descending on Karachi did not prove completely true, as some sane voices averted the disaster. Apart from that the timing of the disaster did not suit some powerful political forces; even though they also agreed that the MQM had to be cut down to a manageable size. I told my friend that powers that be have decided to reduce mandate and power of the MQM and ‘liberate’ Karachi from the ‘MQM clutches’; and that few months in time table did not matter much.
About three weeks ago I met my friend again and we exchanged views about the situation of Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular. Again I asserted that Karachi will face a disaster, perhaps a bigger disaster then previously envisaged. Like on previous occasions he said we don’t want any trouble and bloodshed on streets of Karachi, but if life is made difficult for us and some forces tried to eliminate us we won’t have any choice but to fight back. Other people living in Karachi have choice to go back to their homes as they came here to work and earn money. Those who came to Karachi to work from Peshawar, Quetta or Multan can go back to their homes. We don’t have another home to go to, as Karachi is our only home. Our forefathers left our homes in 1947 and made Karachi our home.
He said his childhood memories were not so pleasant, as he had witnessed our people being oppressed and denied of fundamental rights. He said we came here to become citizens of new country – Pakistan; but we were not accepted as Pakistanis and equal to those who did not migrate for Pakistan or suffered for the sake of Pakistan. We were called ‘Mohajres’, and taunted as people lower in social status. We have witnessed crackdowns and actions against us and survived; and if another military action is on the way, we will not let them to destroy our homes and shatter unity of our community.
I said I know what happened in 1990s, but it will be different this time. It will be a different kind of fight and MQM will be attacked from many sides. The MQM will be presented as ‘evil and a trouble maker’; and all the forces that matter will unite to destroy power base of the MQM. My friend was confident that they will be able to fight off all the attacks and survive as a political force; and, if anything, the MQM, with help of other oppressed people of Pakistan will make notable progress in other regions.
In my opinion, being confident is good thing; but to be complacent and to under estimate strength of foes is very serious mistake. Machiavelli said: ‘Don’t want fight too much, or the enemy would know your art of war’. The MQM has fought many wars, and by and large, they have been successful in most of them, although they suffered badly in some. But the future war in Karachi will produce different results as it is very meticulously planned and will be more sophisticated. Its prime objective is not to clear Karachi of arms or terrorists but to end the MQM hegemony in Karachi and in politics of Pakistan.
Over the past few months thousands of core terrorists or militants have reached Karachi; and they have taken their positions. The MQM leadership is not oblivious of these developments; but I feel they don’t have many options left. Of course they have hold in certain areas, but those who are aligned against them are better equipped and better trained and benefit from logistic support which the MQM doesn’t have.
Those who are at the helm of affairs are not fools. They knew if the proposed action took place while they were in charge, even though theoretically, it would jeopardise their future political prospects. So they ensured that the pot keeps on boiling but no stringent action should be taken. Political wisdom dictates why not wait for few more months and use shoulders of the interim government to target the MQM. What that means is that the MQM leadership has few more months to put their house in order and work out a strategy.
One view is that onslaught on the MQM will be seen as an attack on the Mohajres and will unite them, as they know only the MQM can safeguard their future and interests. It is, therefore, possible that the MQM can muster sufficient arms and volunteers to fight back and protect their interests. However, the question is for how long a group can fight the state power which will transform the action as a legal and justified one. Moreover, are the MQM loyalists ready to bite the bullet, especially those who have enjoyed protocol and privileges for so many years?
Apart from that, in my view the hold of Altaf Hussain over MQM is not as strong as it was some years ago; and that is mainly due to his deteriorating health condition. Despite appearance of a unified command in the ranks of the MQM, many feel that it is no longer completely united; and in view of this it is also possible that like in the past, powers that be might engineer a split in the MQM, and those who have enjoyed privileges for the past many years could become accomplice. It is human nature that people who hold public posts and remain in that position for some years start thinking that they hold these positions of power because of their own talent and skills and start dreaming for a greater role, especially when the top man is suffering from health problems.
Another thing that makes the fight - back more difficult is the weakening support Altaf Hussain and the MQM once enjoyed from Britain and other countries. This uneasy relationship between the British and Altaf Hussain and the MQM make them more vulnerable, especially when forces against them are united that the MQM must be controlled and ‘tamed’.
Though Altaf Hussain put up a brave face in his last speech expressing his anger and frustration over the boundary changes under the garb of the Supreme Court order; but critics noted signs of anxiety. However, he was correct in saying that why Karachi was singled out; and why not apply the same rule in the rest of Pakistan as well; and that it was responsibility of the Election Commission to make constituencies. In any case, it was not for the Courts to decide mandate of political parties, as ‘The people are free to vote any party they love”. But question is all they free to vote?
I hope my prediction proves wrong; and some sane people avert the disaster. However, if people in power continue to play politics the civil war will ensue and it will be so destructive that people will forget what happened in Beirut and Bosnia; and it may leave permanent marks on the geography and body politics of Pakistan.
Writer is a political analyst and author of many books and booklets. Also he is Director Institute of Kashmir Affairs.Email:firstname.lastname@example.org