KARACHI: Terming the Taliban’s move of creating ‘state within a state’ as the biggest threat, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) will hold a countrywide referendum on Thursday to decide whether people want Jinnah’s ‘liberal’ Pakistan or the Taliban’s extreme ideological state.
Addressing a press conference at the Lal Qila ground on Sunday, MQM’s deputy convener Farooq Sattar lashed out at the Taliban, just days after militants had threatened to liberate the people of Karachi from the MQM.
Suggesting the attack on Malala was a wakeup call for the nation, Sattar said, “The referendum will decide the fate of the country.
The people will have to decide if they want Jinnah’s Pakistan or the Taliban’s Pakistan.”
The MQM leader said that the referendum was being held on November 8, a day before Allama Iqbal’s anniversary. Polling stations would be formed across the country, and people would be able to cast their vote from 9am to 5pm. Votes may be cast via a website and through SMS, a facility put forth for overseas Pakistanis in particular. A commission comprising retired judges, lawyers, intellectuals would be monitoring the referendum. “Irrespective of the result, the MQM wants a progressive, liberal and secular Pakistan,” said Sattar.
Highly critical of the Taliban, Sattar said that the militants have challenged Pakistan’s constitution. “Years ago when Altaf Hussain had warned everyone of rising Talibanisation in the country, and especially in Karachi, leaders of religious parties and journalists made fun of him and accused him of spreading fear,” he said. “And today, finally, the Supreme Court demands action against the Taliban. This proves that Hussain was speaking the truth.”
Furthermore, the MQM leader said that while education and technology is the key of every progressive nation, the Taliban are stopping people from pursuing education by blowing up schools and attacking students. “The October 9 incident is a final wakeup call for Pakistan when the country’s daughter Malala was attacked. The whole nation came together and condemned the incident.”
“Jinnah did not want extremism. He wanted a liberal, secular and democratic country where all communities were free to practise their religion,” he added.
Pointing out the Taliban’s atrocities, Sattar said that they were violators of women’s rights. “Not only do they treat women like animals but also whip them to death. They declare people infidels and force their beliefs on to others.”
He said the country was facing great external and internal threats: with drone attacks threatening its sovereignty on one hand and religious extremism and terrorism destroying its image abroad. “Imambargahs, masjids and mazars are being attacked. Law enforcement agencies are not spared; rangers and police officers are being killed brutally.”
Sattar said that the referendum will prove that the people are united and want equal rights for minorities. “Pakistanis want harmony and peace in the country. They want a democratic and liberal nation. This referendum will give a new life to the country, help to free it from foreign aid, and to move towards stability,” said Sattar with high hopes. He added that all political parties, including the ANP should participate in the referendum and prove their unity against the militants.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2012.