With nothing but silence from the London offices of the MQM leader, Altaf Hussain, it is not possible to gauge how developments in Pakistan are being received. Notwithstanding that, events are moving swiftly on several fronts. The soft coup mounted by Dr Farooq Sattar a week ago is consolidating, although it is too early to say that the party is united behind him and there are obvious differences, with Wasay Jalil, a coordination committee member, saying that any decision to split with the London end of the party is unacceptable. The moving of a resolution in parliament by Dr Sattar on September 2 condemning the August 22 speech that sparked the current turmoil has changed nothing in real terms.
There are two realities — one is that it will not be easy to airbrush Altaf Hussain out of the picture in a ‘Minus-One’ scenario, and the other is that the MQM is a legitimate political party with parliamentary presence and the government cannot willy-nilly set about proscribing its operations as some quarters are advocating. People vote for the MQM in their millions as is their right and for many of those voters, the man still at the top is Altaf Hussain. The government needs to show a little more restraint in its approach to the MQM. Bulldozing MQM buildings said to be encroachments is one thing, wholesale detentions of members and activists another. For the MQM, a revision of its constitution to exclude Altaf Hussain may be a step in the right direction but it is going to be difficult to sell to many of the rank and file membership. Either way there is a significant shift within the MQM that is still ‘in process’ rather than concluded. If the final position results in a more peaceful Karachi, then so be it and welcome, but the government needs to stand back and let events take their course.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 3rd, 2016.
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