KARACHI: Unanimously rejecting the reformed general sales tax (RGST) and flood tax, the chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Altaf Hussain called on all religious and political parties to unite for the cause and announce a long march in protest.
Maintain your differences against the MQM, Atlaf told other parties, “but come together and march to preserve the country’s self-respect,” he pleaded. “You (other parties) lead and we (MQM) will follow. We do not want leadership we just want the prosperity of Pakistan,” Hussain said speaking to thousands of his party loyalists gathered at the Jinnah Ground in Azizabad via telephone from London. In typical MQM style, Hussain made use of the live broadcast across four provinces, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan on the occasion of Yaum-e-Shuhada, the annual day for mourning MQM workers who lost their lives in target killings and operations, to “let hundreds of thousands of people decide whether or not the RGST and flood tax was acceptable.” “No!” was the chant the party chief received in response.
“The people’s parliament has spoken. They have given their referendum,” Hussain declared, adding that the Supreme Court needed to set up a judicial commission to investigate how many landlords, feudals, tribal chiefs, MNAs and MPAs pay their due taxes.
“Only when the president, prime minister, MNAs, MPAs and bureaucrats pay up is when the poor people will also pay more taxes than they are already burdened with,” Hussain firmly said. Inflation is skyrocketing and basic necessities are now out of the common man’s reach, he said, adding that those crushed under the burden were committing suicide and to put another tax would just break them.
Highlighting corruption and those who earned under the cover of “commissions” he demanded that the money taken must be returned to the citizens of Pakistan. To ensure his words were reaching the people, he asked those in attendance to raise their hands in order to show their rejection of the additional taxes. People in their thousands stood and crossed their arms in solidarity with their leader in self-imposed exile.
Saying that the current situation and state of the country left one ashamed to be called Pakistani, he called on the nation to rise and free themselves from western powers. “Are we a sovereign nation or are we going to succumb to the dictation of the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and United States?” he asked, adding that the nation needed to regain its “mortgaged respect”.
They (US and western powers) would never allow Pakistan into their Congress to influence the content and passage of bills, Hussain said, similarly the government should disallow any interference in country’s internal matters — in an apparent reference to the RGST. Pakistanis know their issues and people best, the MQM chief pointed out, “they know who the thieves are, who own multitude of sugar and cement factories and how the inheritance of certain politicians multiplied before and after their entry into politics. They also know who is lobbying for the RGST”.
“March” he told his party workers and all those who could hear him, “march for your honour, dignity, self-respect and independence.” While my words are harsh, he told the crowd hanging on his every word, it is the absolute truth, Hussain claimed. Speaking of struggles and lives lost during independence, he said the time has come once again when the country needed similar sacrifices through the sensitive period Pakistan is currently facing. “Are we going to continue to sell its sovereignty?” he asked. “No, there will be a revolution,” the crowd responded.
Promising families who lost loved ones in target killings and operations, Altaf Hussain said the MQM would never stop fighting for their cause and will not let the blood spilt go in vain. At the end of the address members of the Rabita committee and party workers laid floral wreaths on the monument for the remembrance of those who were killed.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 10th, 2010.
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