KARACHI: In his first full-length televised interview, Afaq Ahmed, the chief of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H), alleged that there was a “100 per cent” plan by rival Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chairman Altaf Hussain to create a Jinnahpur state, which ultimately led to the 1992 operation.
Afaq’s explosive statements were made on an exclusive two-part episode of the Express News show To the Point with host Shahzaib Khanzada on Thursday evening.
Afaq was released on bail this week after eight years in jail.
The MQM-H chief broke away from the Altaf-led MQM around the time of the 1992 operation to form his own faction, the MQM-Haqiqi. He explained that he split with the MQM because Altaf Hussain was “involved in anti-state activities”, for which he could now provide witnesses. “Altaf [Hussain] took money from the agencies and I am a witness to this,” Afaq claimed.
When asked about Jinnahpur, Afaq claimed that Hussain had lied that there was no plan to create such a state. “It was a 100 per cent confirmed plan, and I am a witness to it,” he said. When asked to provide proof, Afaq said that if Hussain denies it in court then he would produce the evidence, including bank account numbers in which Hussain allegedly stashed away money received from the intelligence agencies, and witnesses.
Afaq seemed to contradict himself at this point as he implied that the agencies financed Altaf Hussain on Jinnahpur but then went on to crack down on the party for it in the subsequent operation.
To grill Afaq on this point, the host put forward a recent televised statement of Brigadier Imtiaz aka Billa, who was in charge of the men participating in the 1992 operation. The brigadier had claimed that there never really was a Jinnahpur plot and that the operation was based on biased reasoning.
Afaq countered this by claiming that the agencies had never worked independently and had always taken orders from the government. Afaq further alleged that the brigadier’s retraction was based on dictation from Altaf Hussain. Afaq went on to allege that the operation was also directed against certain members of the MQM as orchestrated by Altaf.
Afaq criticised the policies of the MQM, claiming that Altaf Hussain ruled by fear and held Karachi hostage to gain votes and power. “If you deweaponise the MQM, they would lose their seats,” he claimed.
The host then showed a reel of “Urdu-speaking people” talking about Altaf Hussain and how the MQM chief had urged them to live peacefully without regard for ethnic differences. Afaq called the interviews biased, saying that they were taken in areas where the MQM dominated.
The MQM-H chief said that past elections, in which Hussain had received a favourable response, the results were the outcome of fear and government backing. “The word Muttahida was devised by Altaf Hussain to mislead the people.”
He predicted that while it was stronger now compared to two decades ago, the MQM would have to face difficulties in the future.
Afaq questioned why, when it came to power in 2002, had the MQM not taken up the cases of hundreds of party workers who went missing in the 1990s. “Altaf had called for one son from each family, and later had them killed. When their family members ask what happened to their loved ones, why did they not answer?” he asked. “They were in power under Musharraf, why did they not resolve the missing persons’ cases?”
Aamir Khan, a long-standing stalwart of the MQM–H and Afaq’s fellow inmate, had after his release this year, decided to return to the MQM with several members. Afaq described this defection as a weakness on his part. “He [Khan] had grown weak after such a long imprisonment,” he said, adding, “If he can leave me, he can leave the MQM too.”
Afaq defended his friendship with controversial former MPA Zulfiqar Mirza, whose tirade against the MQM earlier this year had threatened to open up ethnic fissures in Sindh. “Zulfiqar Mirza is a friend and he came to visit me in jail, even before he went to the media about it,” Afaq said.
He would have met the previous home minister Waseem Akhter had he visited him in jail. “I would have met the jailor, it’s a different matter if I would do it happily or not.”
Published in The Express Tribune, December 23rd, 2011.
Correction: An earlier version of the story mentioned the previous home minister as Waseem Ahmed instead of Waseem Akhter. The error is regretted.