The recent war of words between the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is neither new nor shocking. The residents of Karachi and newspaper readers all over the country are well aware of it. However, the latest round of verbal war between the two parties has seen the chief of the JI asking the government to deal with their coalition partners — the MQM — in a high-handed manner, ostensibly to bring peace to Karachi, borders on the ridiculous, even for a party that boycotts elections and has not had any noticeable presence in the national and provincial legislative assemblies for quite some time.
For starters, the MQM is the single biggest representative of the people of Karachi in parliament and has been consistently getting votes since 1988. So, kicking them out of the government and dealing with them in a “high-handed” manner will not yield any lasting — or temporary — results. The JI has been out of parliament for so long that its leaders have forgotten that popular politics is about taking care of the wishes of the electorate, not dealing with their mandate in a high-handed manner.
By constantly targeting the MQM, a party with a decent enough mandate in the province of Sindh, the JI is indirectly proposing the political isolation and disenfranchisement of a large group of people. In a country where sense of victimhood is high among so many marginalised sections of society, adding one more to it is tantamount to internal security hara-kiri, but the JI is vigorously following this policy. Instead of working to bring in more groups into the political arena, it is trying to push away those who are part of it.
The JI is supposedly a national party but seems to be concerned only with the safety and security of Karachi — an issue that gets enough coverage in the media and is never out of public discussion. However, one is yet to hear a single word of condemnation from its leadership on the premeditated targeted killings of Shia Hazaras in Quetta, probably because the banned organisations that have taken responsibility for most of the attacks are ideologically on the same side of the fence as the JI.
While it is quiet on the Hazara genocide, the JI decides to speak against the sectarian violence in Gilgit-Baltistan and is supporting the protests by the Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen in front of parliament. However, it continues to be in denial about the causes of the violence and is blaming ‘foreign enemies’ for the latest round of violence in Gilgit-Balitistan. To add injury to insult, they are seeking counsel from rightwing militant outfits — the very perpetrators of the violence — in order to bring about peace in the region.
The party also opposes the bill on domestic violence which was recently presented in the National Assembly — again — after having lapsed previously. What it should realise is that it has lost its right to protest legislative amendments when it boycotted the elections. Only parties with presence in the assemblies get to discuss and amend the Constitution.
If the JI wants to be taken as a serious political contender, it needs to focus on the issues that are relevant to the people of Pakistan instead of blaming the MQM for the violence in Karachi and the US for everything else that is wrong with the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2012.