The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief, Altaf Hussain, never stays out of the headlines for long. This time, at an iftari hosted by the MQM, he called on Karachi’s businessmen to buy whatever sophisticated weapons they could, including A-3s and Kalashnikovs, in order to deal with extortionists. Mr Hussain suggested that even if bribes needed to be paid, these weapons should be acquired as the business community had no other means to deal with the ‘bhatta’ mafia. He also said that the MQM would be willing to provide 100,000 men to help the business community protect itself. He pointed out that traders were already spending huge sums of money paying ‘bhatta’ and may as well hire bodyguards instead.
Mr Hussain’s remarks came in the presence of Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and other senior government officials, who all appeared embarrassed by the contents of his speech. Mr Hussain stated that they had failed to protect people and also asked Mr Malik why he spoke so often of an operation in Lyari when none took place, day after day and week after week. This is not the only attack Mr Malik faced. He was also asked why he was calling the people of Balochistan ‘terrorists’ or ‘anti-national elements’, when in fact, they were victims of the security forces0. His criticism of the government also covered other areas and he stated that while he opposed any division of Sindh there may be no choice left in the future.
Mr Malik made an attempt to defend the government and also lavished the MQM chief with praise, saying it was because of him that the government was still intact. This, however, hardly covered up all that Mr Hussain had said. His remarks obviously come as a sharp rebuke to the government and send a tremor to the uneasy coalition that exists. A major national leader calling on people to take up arms is in some ways highly disquieting and indicates the times of trouble we have run into in Karachi and indeed everywhere else.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.