Pakistan, Bahadurabad, PIB – how many MQMs need to fail before the party accepts defeat?
Life is a system to cycles; it ebbs and flows. To sound more dramatic, everything that rises must fall, or in the words of George RR Martin, “Valar Morghulis” – all men must die. Men, or mankind rather, tend to forget simple facts in life; chiefly, the fact of death and the eventual perishing of one’s existence. People tend to forget that once they are gone, all their attempts to undermine others will be gone as well.
The reason why I must apprise my readers with such boring things, which they have probably heard of numerous times before, is that despite the ubiquity of such information, men like Altaf Hussain and his cohorts in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), never seem to learn.
The MQM was formed through street power, led by Altaf and the intellectual vision of luminaries such as Hakim Said and the poet, Jaun Elia. For a lot of people, Altaf and his party was a beacon of hope. It was the guiding hand which would lead the dwellers of Sindh, especially the Muhajirs of Karachi, to their salvation. This salvation was to come in the shape of equality, rights, a good public education system, sanitation and an effective and representative local government.
However, years of trust were laid to waste by none other than Altaf himself. The first casualties of MQM’s rule of Karachi were its own intellectual leaders, including the brilliant visionary, Hakim. Nine members of the MQM were sentenced to death for his murder in 1999, and several others, including Altaf, had arrest warrants issued against them. Following this murder, other luminaries were also sidelined; done at the behest of the one man who wanted to lead a fledgling but booming party all by himself.
Once all opposition to his rule was gone, Altaf emerged as the leader of the one party that ruled Karachi. His every wish was the worker’s command, with there being an uncontested and unflinching acquiescence to the will of Altaf. If any worker was asked what the vision of the party was, and their response was anything other than, “only Altaf Bhai knows the true objective of MQM”, he or she would be demoted. Workers started occupying land and resources on the influence of the party, and gradually pushed out any other viable opposition in the city. This process further consolidated the MQM and made it a national level player.
In turn, its success brought in further zealous recruits, and also gained the party numerous enemies. With this level of control over a “zombified” mob of armed workers, the madness set in, and Altaf slowly directed the city into darkness and chaos from his drunken stupor at the MQM headquarters in London.
Fast forward to 2016; Altaf openly incited people to attack a prominent news network, and uttered the dreaded slogan of “Pakistan murdabad”. Major arrests followed, including the face of MQM in Pakistan and Altaf’s frontman, Dr Farooq Sattar. After his brief stint in jail, Sattar reappeared and openly denounced the actions of his former leader. This culminated in the formation of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), with Sattar at its helm. Several absent leaders of the MQM reappeared, and joined ranks with MQM-P. This nascent faction tried its best to face the onslaught of Altaf’s MQM from London, and an emerging Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), which was easily chipping away at its ranks and hoarding its leadership base.
Sattar tried his best to lead the remnants of his beleaguered party, however, he didn’t (and still doesn’t) have what Altaf possessed – actual power and control over his workers. After a doomed alliance with PSP, as soon as his party leaders started to give him a piece of their mind, he resigned “Altaf style”, only to be convinced by his mother to return to the fold. This shenanigan worked, albeit only temporarily. Amir Khan, the “other” party behemoth, emerged as a strong opposing force of ideas within the party, and as soon as it mattered, the strong willed Sattar was at loggerheads with the strong armed Khan.
By now, the Senate elections were at hand and the party needed to announce its candidates. The main bone of contention was between Kamran Tessori and Barrister Farogh Naseem – both considered to be men of the establishment. The argument over the latter was still mellow compared to the argument over the former, who is widely despised by certain members of the Rabita Committee. As a result, when Sattar announced the Senate candidacy of Tessori from MQM-P, another split did not seem out of the blue.
Subsequently, all hell broke loose within the party, and two distinct camps emerged – the PIB and Bahadurabad camps. The PIB camp is led by Sattar, while the Bahadurabad camp is spearheaded by Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, with the will of Khan distinctly behind him. The fight over the candidates escalated, and all talks broke down. This created a lot of anger and disgust among the party members, as the men they were fighting over were not even known to be ideological members of the party. Even though they managed to patch up on the last day before the Senate elections, when Siddiqui and Sattar announced joint candidates, the damage had been done. With both factions pandering to other established parties, including the big three, its members ultimately made individual choices in the vote.
With dissent being the underlying and financial gain being the primary motive, the MQM members of the Senate voted against party directives, and the party ended up winning a single “sympathy” seat. This fiasco led Sattar to decry election proceedings and beg the Election Commission of Pakistan to take notice. However, the point of no return had been crossed. The only way left to recover from this was to join a larger union, and vote with any of the alliances for the top two Senate offices.
The MQM-P leadership met with numerous parties till they finally joined hands with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), receiving in return some respect and recognition in the public’s eyes, not to mention benefits to follow in the future. The election of Sadiq Sanjrani for the post of Senate Chairman and Saleem Mandviwala for Deputy Chairman, both backed by the PPP and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), included a single vote from MQM-P. They may be boasting a win for the candidate backed by them, but everyone knows the reality by now.
MQM-P is dead – requiescat in pace (RIP). Without the power consolidation of Altaf, or the organisational skills of Anis Qaimkhani (who is now the president of PSP), MQM is in dire straits. With no powerful figure to manoeuvre the politics of the party, another fiasco is in the works as soon as the general elections arrive later this year. The PSP has already assimilated a great portion of MQM’s worker base, and PPP is preparing to take over the rest. The only thing that can save MQM-P right now is Altaf himself, who has been working out, apparently trying to be healthy again. Not quite sure how that will go.
If the party does not resolve its internal issues, which would mean forgiving its members for their betrayal in the Senate elections, the upcoming general elections are toast, and so is the party that used to be MQM.
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