KARACHI: As Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain’s anti-Pakistan speech triggered countrywide uproar and widespread condemnation, his senior aides ‘completely disowned’ his remarks and disavowed the London-based decision-making body of the party.
“What was said against the state, the slogans chanted [against Pakistan] were never a part of MQM’s policy from day one,” Dr Farooq Sattar told a news conference at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) where he was not allowed to speak by the Rangers a day earlier. He was flanked by other senior party colleagues, including Nasreen Jalil, Khawaja Izharul Hassan and Amir Liaquat Hussain.
Sattar accused Altaf of repeatedly embarrassing the party. “We have decided to address his mental tension, or illness, or whatever condition he is suffering from,” he said.
“The MQM cannot afford to suffer this damage time and time again,” he said, explaining what he claimed was a party decision to take control away from Altaf. “It is MQM Pakistan, so it should be operated from Pakistan,” he added. “This message is for there (London) and it is for here.”
Altaf apologised for his Monday’s vitriolic address given under ‘immense mental stress’, but Sattar said his party could not afford this to happen again. “Such things will never happen in future,” he held out an assurance in an attempt to soothe frayed tempers.
Unlike the past when Altaf made similar remarks only to regret them later, Sattar said this time the public was questioning the party’s policy.
On Monday, after Altaf’s provocative address, scores of MQM activists ransacked ARY TV station before clashing with police, leaving at least one person dead and over half a dozen injured. Whatever happened yesterday should not have happened, we condemn it,” he said.
The rioting drew widespread condemnations and prompted a crackdown on the party’s offices by the Rangers. “What we gained politically from our six-day hunger-strike was lost by one mistake – a mistake that brought the party and its workers nothing but ridicule.”
Sattar, along with Khawaja Izhar, was detained by the Rangers Monday evening outside the KPC only to be released Tuesday afternoon. Sattar admitted Monday’s statements of Altaf had landed the party in serious trouble.
He emphasised that ‘sanity must prevail’ and that there was a need for ‘damage control’. He added that they have decided that all party decisions would be made by leaders in Pakistan.
Sattar also sought to dispel the impression that his statement had been orchestrated. “The things we were going to say yesterday, we are saying today. They are the same,” Sattar said while referring to his brief detention by the Rangers outside the KPC.
“Inevitably, the idea that this all [news conference] is being done on someone’s dictation will probably emerge because we spent eight hours in the custody of the Rangers friends,” he added.
Sattar went on to denounce violence stating that it was never their party policy and reiterated the MQM’s unflinching loyalty to Pakistan. “Whoever doubts my patriotism, I have a right to doubt his [patriotism].”
Though it may be too early to judge reaction of MQM’s rank and file to Sattar’s news conference, some party leaders backed him.
They included Izhar, Karachi’s deputy mayor candidate Arshad Vohra, MPA Muhammad Hussain, and Dr Amir Liaquat who were present at the news conference. Others who extended their early endorsement included two elected MQM representatives from Hyderabad.
‘’I sent him [Sattar] a message after watching the press conference that I am 100 per cent satisfied with your stance,’’ MNA Syed Waseem Hussain told The Express Tribune. “All Pakistanis should accept this stance. We are all Pakistanis first. Politics comes later.”
MPA Dilawar Qureshi also backed Sattar. However, he clarified that his view should not be considered as MQM Hyderabad chapter’s official stance.
Later, London-based MQM leader Wasay Jalil clarified during a television interview that the party’s all-powerful Rabita Committee was still in charge and making party decisions.
Dr Amir Liaquat quits MQM
After the news conference, Dr Amir Liaquat Hussain, who is also a popular TV host, announced that he was quitting the MQM and politics for good. Speaking on a private television channel, he explained that he was fed up with politics. He denied that he had been pressured into making the decision.
He joins the likes of MQM Rabita Committee member Ghazi Salahuddin and MPAs Irum Azeem and Khalid Bin Wilayat who quit the party on Monday.
Corps Commander visits DG Rangers
Corps Commander Karachi Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar on Tuesday visited the Rangers headquarters where he was briefed about the ongoing crackdown against the MQM.
“Strict action should be taken against elements involved in inciting violence and ransacking,” Lt Gen Mukhtar directed DG Rangers Maj Gen Bilal Akbar. He reiterated that the Karachi operation would continue till the last criminal is eliminated.
The Corps Commander also held separate meetings with Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan and Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah where the governor and the CM backed the action against those disturbing peace of the city.
DG Rangers visits Nine Zero
Maj Gen Akbar visited the MQM headquarters, Nine Zero, in the Azizabad area of Karachi to review the situation. The party’s offices there had been sealed by the paramilitary force following a four-hour-long search operation early Tuesday morning.
The Rangers said they had recovered anti-state literature in printed and digital formats in addition to five sub-machine guns and two pistols.
Separately, the Rangers continued its crackdown against the party in different parts of the city. Large contingents of paramilitary troops entered the party’s temporary offices at Ghanchi Hall in PIB Colony where MQM’s nominated candidates were preparing for today’s (Wednesday) mayoral elections.
Sattar and Amir Khan were also present at the camp and briefed the troops.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2016.