Saturday, March 22, 2008

MQM, Business as Usual!

By Adnan Gill

Since the February 18 elections, a spate of threats emanating from the highest circles of MQM have served as a rude reminder that the party is still running its business as usual, i.e. meeting their goals through arm-twisting, intimidation, scaremongering and/or naked violence. Fairly or unfairly, Human Rights organizations and the majority of Pakistanis blamed MQM for orchestrating and executing the May 12 Karachi Carnage. Astonishingly, it's as if the MQM overlords haven't learned a thing from the severe backlash they received from the May 12 Carnage. Its gung-ho leadership continues with its hallmark heavy-handed tactics to convince or coarse their political foes.

As soon as MQM comes across a perceived hurdle, it tries to bulldoze through it with brute force. Ironically, despite its history of sorting matters through violent means, it's patrons in the West shamelessly project MQM as a secular and a moderate political party. Even though there are several criminal convictions against MQM's undisputed lord Altaf Hussain, still he is afforded security and luxury in London: courtesy of Her Majesty’s government, the United Kingdom. Never mind, if he is held squarely responsible for the massacre of thousands of Pakistani citizens. In a prime example of hypocrisy and violation of international laws, in February 2001, Mr. Hussain, who is believed to be one of the worst terrorists, was granted British citizenship with full civil, constitutional rights and privileges available to all British citizens. By granting him British citizenship, the UK violated several international laws, like UNSC Res: 1189 (section 5) and 1368. Why a British citizen so intimately linked with terrorism and a person who has renounced the creation of Pakistan (that too in front of Indian audience) is allowed to run Pakistan's fourth largest political party is a million-dollar question!

However, neither the majority of Pakistanis nor the human rights organizations share West’s pristine view of the MQM. In a 2007 press release, Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch, disputed western establishment’s portrayal of the MQM. Mr. Adams said, “The political crisis deepened on May 12, when 42 people died in violence fomented by activists of the Mutahedda Qaumi Movement (MQM)”. He disclosed, in order to silence its critics, the MQM frequently resorts to intimidation through death threats. He said, “Mohajir Rabita Council (MRC), an affiliate of the MQM, issued a statement naming 12 eminent Pakistani journalists as ‘enemies.’” Finally, Mr. Adams commented on the long history of human rights abuses by the MQM, “The MQM has a long record of political harassment, extortion, torture and targeted killings”

MQM's lust for power is only rivaled by its founding leader’s iron grip on the party. Even though Mr. Hussain, a British citizen and a taxi driver turned politician, has not set a foot in Pakistan in the last 18 years, he remains the overlord of the party. Curiously, he manages to fly over Pakistan to land in India only to renounce the creation of Pakistan, but for some conspicuous reason, can’t find heart to stop by in Pakistan for even few hours. Nevertheless, he enjoys a decent following among the Mohajir Pakistanis from Karachi and Hyderabad. His critics allege it's because people are forced at the barrel of gun to follow his edicts.

As soon as the 2008 election results became apparent, in its lust for plushy and lucrative ministries, MQM was back at what it does the best, blackmailing and extortion. Once again it tried to muscle its way through by demanding to become a coalition partner of the incoming government. In his typical style, reminiscent of Adolf Hitler's fiery sermons, Lord Hussain led the campaign of intimidation. He threatened, “It will be dangerous for Sindh if certain groups do not respect the mandate of the people.” In an apparent threat to Pakistan People’s Party (the overwhelming winner in Sindh, especially in the rural Sindh), he said, Sindh would face confrontation because ‘certain groups’ were trying to create an urban and rural division in the province. Translation: there will be violence if you left MQM out of the incoming government.

Taking a cue from their Lord's opening shot, his lieutenants backed up Lord Hussain’s campaign of intimidation with their own. The City Nazim Syed Mustafa Kamal said that Karachi can face law and order situation if MQM was not included in the new government set-up. To score the point home, MQM presented a sample to highlight their resolve to backup their words with actions. When PPP’s candidate from PS-110 Habib Jan tried to meet the hospitalized men injured in a shootout in which four people were wounded, and an eight-year-old girl and a man were killed, eyewitnesses reported, armed MQM men surrounding the Civil Hospital roughed up and then fired on Mr. Jan.

Then in a follow-up to his initial threats, Lord Hussain again warned, “The MQM does not want war. This is 2008 and we are ready to give our lives but not ready to surrender or retreat.” Evidently, Lord Hussain had been under the impression that in the 2008 Democratic system too, the number of seats don't matter, it's the ‘bully factor’ which matters. Apparently, that is how the MQM had been able to become a coalition partner in the past governments, but this time PPP was in no mood to give in to the threats of unadulterated violence, especially not after MQM's stellar performance in the May 12 Carnage. However, perhaps inadvertently, Lord Hussain confirmed MQM's frequent indulgence in violence and terrorism. He lashed out, “Do not push us against the wall. If anything happens tomorrow, do not hold us responsible. We are against violence and terrorism, but we are also human beings and we will never compromise on our self-respect, dignity and honor.”

It is anybody's guess why the backlash from the May 12 Carnage failed to jolt the MQM leadership out of their deep slumber into the reality that the days of getting business done through intimidation and pure violence are long gone. They need to listen to their voters’ voice, that they are tired of divisive politics. They are tired of their political leaders who constantly demand unbelievable sacrifices from ordinary workers but don't part with the luxuries they have accustomed themselves to. They are tired of the leaders safely and comfortably sitting in the West expecting their party workers to do the Lord’s dirty work and bear the brunt of retributions resulting from the sins of their overlords. They are tired of politicians who thrive on pitting Pakistanis against each other on their sectarian and ethnic differences. No longer do they want to be Balochis, Sindhis, Pathans, Punjabis or Mohajirs, they just want to be plain Pakistanis. They are tired of violence and killings. They couldn't care less who sits in the assemblies or who gets what ministry. They are more concerned about who can provide them the basic necessities of life, like electricity, atta, and security for their families.

If the MQM overlords are genuinely concerned about the well-being of Pakistanis then they need to stop running their business as usual, part with the security and luxury afforded to them by foreign-powers, return to Pakistan and serve their constituents without packing a gun in their back pockets.

(Courtesy The Frontier Post)

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