The arch-rival of Karachi’s largest party tasted freedom for the first time in seven years on Saturday.
The controversial Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H) leader Afaq Ahmed – whose separation from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) marked a bloody turf war in Karachi in the 1990s – still seems to hold a grudge against his erstwhile comrade, Altaf Hussain.
“I forgive Altaf Hussain,” he said while speaking to the media that had gathered in Landhi. “I forgive him for my continuous imprisonment. I forgive Sindh Governor Ishratul Ibad as well, for not letting me attend my father’s funeral. But can I forgive them what they’ve done to my people and my country? Never.”
All personal resentment aside, Ahmed said all he blamed Altaf for was using Karachi as a bargaining chip to stay in control.
Ahmed was quick to add that it was just Altaf, not the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) that he blamed.
Once Altaf’s close aide, Ahmed denied that there were any secret deals behind his release. “Trust me. I’m not going to leave Karachi. Not even if I die in the process. That was an offer made to me eight years back.”
The MQM-H workers who had joined the rival faction fearing persecution, are ready to come back to the party, he said. “We will announce their names in a few days.” He refrained from commenting on Amir Khan joining Altaf’s MQM.
“We have to reorganise the party and it doesn’t matter if I have to start from scratch,” he said, adding, “I will launch a new website soon too.”
The MQM-H’s party offices that were sealed over the last few years will be reopened, but with the admission’s knowledge, Ahmed said.
“I am grateful to Home Minister Manzoor Wassan for not succumbing to pressure from the PPP’s coalition partner. The police have also been extremely supportive,” he added.
Recalling past grudges with Altaf, Ahmed said the MQM chief was just insecure about the control over his party. “If Altaf decides to give up his British passport and come back, I will join hands with him.”
Ahmed praised former Sindh home minister Zulfiqar Mirza for trying to take Altaf to British court. “He and Lord Nazeer are waging a jihad. We have given documentary proof as well.”
President Asif Ali Zardari, however, is sticking with Altaf in a political maneuver, Ahmed said. “Shut down rural Sindh and the federation is not affected. Shut down Karachi and the entire country is affected.”
Later, Ahmed opened the doors for negotiations with all political parties, even the Sindhi nationalists. “Of course we will contest the elections. That is when the Urdu-speaking will defeat Altaf – at the ballot box.”
No posters, no banners, not even party flags, just nearly 800 people – that’s the arrival that awaited on Saturday, following seven years of imprisonment.
Dressed in blue jeans and a crisp white shirt, a clean-shaved Ahmed stepped out of his armoured vehicle. Doubtful that he would actually be released after being incarcerated time and again, his supporters were overjoyed. “We’re back!” shouted one.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 18th, 2011.