Three and a half years of pent-up frustration exploded live on national television on Sunday as Sindh Senior Minister Zulfiqar Mirza lashed out against Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik – calling him a ‘congenital liar’ and ‘the single biggest threat to Pakistan’s future’ – as well as saying that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement was working on an American agenda to break-up the country.
The fiery remarks came during a press conference in Karachi where Mirza started off by announcing his resignation from the Sindh cabinet, the Sindh Assembly as well as his position of senior vice president in the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP). He was quick to add, however, that he would remain a PPP worker “till the day I die.” Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah was reported to have quickly accepted the resignation, no questions asked.
The allegations against Malik and the MQM were explosive and have already caused a stir across the political spectrum. Mirza accused Rehman Malik of being ‘hand in glove’ with target killers in Karachi, who are held responsible for nearly 1,000 deaths since the beginning of the year.
“I want to tell the president, the prime minister, the army chief and the ISI chief,” claimed Mirza. “Today, I am going away, praying that it is never too late to tell the truth.”
Mirza waved several documents (which he did not share with the media) that he said carried the ‘proof’ of the people responsible for the wave of violence in Karachi. “I have raised my voice against violence in this city and will continue to do so,” he said, adding that he would sell his properties if he had to but will unmask the killers.
Allegations against Rehman Malik
A large part of his rant, however, was reserved for the federal interior minister. “Rehman Malik is such a compulsive liar that if he is having an apple when you call him, he will say he is having a banana.” He also said that he had once requested President Asif Ali Zardari to enrol him at a university where he could learn how to lie, to which he was told by someone that there was one such university where Rehman Malik was vice chancellor.
Mirza also stated that Malik was not loyal to Pakistan, pointing out that the interior minister’s entire family lives in London. “If any harm comes to Pakistan in the future, it will be because of Rehman Malik.” In contrast, he said that his family and his properties and business interests are all in Sindh.
While he shied away from stating that Malik was responsible for former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s death, he said that Malik’s role was not that which would be ‘expected of a PPP supporter.’
Mirza seemed to imply that Rehman Malik’s attempts to reconcile the ruling PPP with the MQM were one of the primary reasons why he (Mirza) – as Sindh home minister – was unable to curb the violence and the bloodshed in Karachi.
Speaking out against MQM
Not for the first time, Zulfiqar Mirza accused the MQM – including the party’s senior leadership – of being responsible for the violence in Karachi and even for trying to divide Pakistan, allegedly at the behest of the United States.
The most specific allegation against the party was Mirza’s contention that six MQM workers were responsible for the killing of Geo News reporter Wali Khan Babar.
“Five men – Mohammad Ali Rizvi, Shakeel, Faisal Mehmood, Shah Rukh and Tahir Naveed – are in custody and one Liaqat is still at large,” claimed Mirza.
He added that he had moved 20 men – ten of whom were facing the death penalty and ten facing life imprisonment – out of prisons in Karachi to prevent them from running criminal networks from behind bars, but that this effort was foiled by Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad Khan (of the MQM), who brought them back to Karachi. He added that 25 ‘known’ target killers were released from jail.
“Saulat Mirza operates his network from death row,” claimed Mirza, referring to a convicted killer allegedly affiliated with the MQM.
He said that he had a list of about 15,000 people who were involved in target killings and affiliated with political parties and went on to claim that the MQM’s electoral strength was dependent on the power of the gun.
“MQM does not have a 100% mandate in Karachi and Hyderabad, but I will admit that their guns successfully get them that mandate,” he said.
Yet even as he once again called for the people of Karachi and Hyderabad to reject the MQM, he apologised once again for his remarks – made at Awami National Party’s Sindh Chief Shahi Syed’s house – that had upset many in the Urdu-speaking community. “The whole nation is not bad. Certain sections are bad,” he said.
The dreaded ‘foreign hand’
Mirza also stated that the MQM appeared to be willing to work with foreign governments in order to strengthen its position within Pakistan and was even willing to go to the extent of breaking up Pakistan.
He claimed to have a letter written by Altaf Hussain in 2001 where the MQM chief told then-British Prime Minister Tony Blair that he would be willing to support the western alliance if the British government helped MQM supporters get jobs in the army and help disband the ISI. Mirza then contrasted himself with the MQM, stating his support for the ISI and the army.
He also claimed to have personally visited the MQM chief at his residence in London, where Altaf Hussain allegedly told him that the MQM was planning on supporting a ‘secret American plot’ to break up Pakistan.
“I can’t stand anyone who talks about splitting this country,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 29th, 2011.