MQM; once a cult party now disintegrated

By: | Abdul Moiz Malik |

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By the looks of it, it appears that – after a very long time – Karachi will find a new stakeholder in the upcoming elections.

Muttahida Qoumi Movement (MQM) the self-proclaimed guardian of the city appears too feeble to validate its claim by the election results and it’s apparent that they won’t be able replicate their past juggernaut of momentum and hardcore devotees in this year’s elections. They’re that badly dented.

MQM in the past have recuperated from a brutal military operation. The leaders went in exile, yet the belligerence of Altaf Hussain held authority. Despite him being in exile, MQM in all literal terms ruled Karachi. They remained a kernel of country’s politics in general and they were the be all and end all of Karachi’s politics. They were impregnable in the city for almost three decades.  In Altaf Hussain and MQM, the languishing Mohajirs saw a glimpse of hope. They viewed MQM as a ticket to get out of their prolonged brevity and get their rights, and MQM did this in the initial part of their inception. MQM brought many who belonged to proletarian section of the society to the echelons of power and gradually, MQM swayed the political landscape of Karachi.

But, then, too much power rather, unchecked power results in rapacity. MQM with this robust popularity became an integral part of country’s politics. The party since its inceptions has been in congruence with conflicts. Many people blame it for the instigation of ethnic conflicts in Karachi. It holds truth. Since APMSO gave power to those who hadn’t had a voice until then, they went berserk. They were out to snatch what’s there and they resorted to every mean of getting what they thought was theirs, as the old adage goes ‘by hook or by crook’ but has been usurped. It went on and Karachi burnt for a decades_______. First it was unruly; a rogue group of few who wanted something for themselves, then, it became organized. MQM was out with an agenda of partisanship and they were sweeping support among the sprawled mohajir community of Karachi, so much so that they became the unanimous voice of the city that has presence of every single ethnic community which makes it the most diverse city of the country. To control Karachi with such authority was what catapulted MQM to the apogee of the power.

MQM was now invincible. They now yielded a plethora of power, power which was perhaps unchecked and beyond their control ,unsolicited. It was to be misused. They then started conniving against the state. They now became a militant organization, but, when  the state sensed that MQM is intruding its cocoon, it decided to pare it down. Now MQM was on the receiving end of the wrath of the state. An aggressive and brutal operation was launched against them aimed at uprooting the very base of MQM, its militant wing. It resulted in barbaric state torture. Karachi was left with indelible marks of violence, torture and killings. State failed to achieve its motive and consequently, Karachi was plagued with irreparable ethnic divide that was to shape the future of this city marring its very plurality.

After that it’s been utter impunity. While MQM was being ruled from abroad, its local leadership strengthened itself by indulging in every misdeed. They obtained notoriety. MQM became the name of a fear. Extortion, land grabbing, killings, name any crime and MQM was involved in everyone of it. There were scathing facts that proved the viciousness of MQM’s militancy but, no one seemed to care. State was patronizing this, and in cases using it to its advantage. Meanwhile the state was dormant, Karachi’s situation deteriorated. MQM kept on enjoying the coalition with the sitting government’s of the time and due to various expediency, everyone ignored what’s going on behind the curtain.

It was in 2013 when the state decided that they can’t let their economic jugular vein to bleed and gasp for oxygen. They decided that the militancy and lawlessness in Karachi needed to be curbed. It was the time when the MQM started to lose its power, the very street power that shaped MQM’s dominance by spreading fear among the local populace.

Karachi operation began and despite MQM being the most vociferous supporter of a military op. to clean up the city , they appeared to be the most badly affected party. Their military wing was crushed. The killings and extortion cases in the city declined exponentially. MQM’s source of money was clogged. People of Karachi felt respite as the biggest bubble of fear was busted.

Karachi’s vivacious life breathed a new life. MQM’s power erected upon fear and crime has been demolished. This clearly frustrated it’s leadership. The angst was there to be seen in the speeches of Altaf Hussain. He time and again said and made gibberish speeches that exacerbated the already precarious situation of the MQM’s leadership in Pakistani. As a result Altaf Hussain’s speeches were banned and he was denied air time. Even his name couldn’t be mentioned on TV. With weakening support and his leader barred from contacting the supporters, MQM’s situation got grimmer by the day.

Then on March 3, the party’s disgruntled leader Mustafa Kamal abruptly returned – or implanted – and landed in the country after being out for years. Unforeseen it was, he furiously criticized Altaf Hussain, admonished him for betraying and exploiting the mohajir community, he announced to launch his own party. It was seen as a pre-planned move to gradually replace and sideline MQM. Since the day of inception of Kamal’s party, MQM leaders have been defecting – or are being forced to – and MQM has been apprehensive since then.

MQM was still struggling with all these adversaries when the fateful day of 22 August cam that proved to be the last nail in the coffin of united MQM. The little power and authority that was left in the hands of MQM dissipated. Altaf Hussain’s words doomed MQM. Subsequently, the situation got worst, MQM’s Pakistan centred leadership had to renounce Altaf Hussain and part its way with the London based leader. That day, Muttahida Qoumi Movement became Muttahida Qoumi Movement London and Muttahida Qoumi Movement Pakistan. They perceived that this move will land them in the good books of the establishment again, but, it was too late. It had been decided that MQM won’t be embraced again. Minus Altaf – the idea that MQM rejected vehemently throughout – was a reality now.

MQM-P lacked a leader who can claim the reins of the party and gather the unanimous support among supporters akin to one Altaf Hussain enjoyed. This became evident with passing time. The binding force of the party weakened and it led to a point where party failed to hold on to its staunchest leaders like Arshad Vohra, the deputy mayor f Karachi. This coupled with episodes of embarrassment like the failed engagement between PSP and MQM-P that didn’t last a single day, completely toppled MQM-pin Karachi, leaving a bewildered mohajir community dangling between three parties.

MQM-P somehow survived these gusts and somehow managed to keep itself steady, more so relevant. It was a lull before the storm.

Time arrived to award tickets for senate, MQM-P failed to reach consensus on the candidates. These differences came out of closed doors and became a ludicrous mess. The already divided MQM-P further disintegrated into two factions led by Farooq Sattar and Khalid Maqbool respectively. The already feeble MQM now appear to be in absolute tatters.

They have clearly reached a nadir in their political struggle. The MQM that Karachites knew is no more.

Irrespective of how this weakly cohesive MQM will fear in elections, the main question is that who’ll be the biggest beneficiary of this ruptured MQM. Ostensibly, no party is strong enough in Karachi to be deemed an outright beneficiary. PTI emerged as an alternate to MQM in the last elections. The weird fact is that PTI appeared stronger when MQM was an absolute power, but, now even when MQM is debilitated, no one is giving PTI a chance to alternate it and sweep away Karachi. After 2013, when the denizens of Karachi showered PTI with votes, yearning for an alternate to MQM, but, after the elections, Imran Khan in all literal terms disowned Karachi. It stood last in his priority lists. He failed to build on the natal success, thus it kept ebbing away and aggrieved Karachi’s citizen felt out of hope.

The other party that can benefit from this position is Jamat e Islami. It has the best organizational structures in Karachi after MQM and time and again, JI protested and stood for issues concerning Karachi. However it’ll require great efforts for JI as PPP with all its governmental resources is destined to replenish its power in the city. Although, the mess Karachi has became in this PPP government’s 8 year tenure is a reason enough for it to lose, but the vacuum that has been created is ought to be filled by some party. It will be either PPP of JI or even ANP in its Pashtun majority areas.

The future appear bleak for MQM, the only stake they had in this country’s politics was Karachi. With it being drifting away, it’s very hard for MQM to find relevance. This being said, the only feasible solution for the party appears to be a unification of all the factions i.e PSP MQM-P and the local support of MQM London, which is improbable. Otherwise, a confused mohajir voter will opt for other parties who can actually solve the problems he face, and the problems that MQM failed to solve.

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