Skip to main content

Op-Ed: MQM in Hot Soup


First Published in Economic Affairs - Islamabad based Magazine (Pakistan) / Aug 2013
BY Afrah Jamal


‘What was it for
?' The BBC Two anchor asks Farooq Sattar (MQM’s Deputy Convener and Parliamentary leader) with an impassive face, referring to the stash of pounds found after a raid on Altaf Hussain’s London pad.

‘Whatever it was for’, he answers, at his inarticulate best.

The word ‘body bags’ ominously flashes on the screen, Mr. Sattar changes tactics; ‘we were all laughing’, dismissing it as a joke.

The savvy anchor runs more damning clips.

‘It is out of context’, Farooq declares. ‘There is no reference to context’, he adds helpfully.

But your own SC took notice…

‘o’ that’, ‘mere emotional outburst.

Unlike those ‘media types’ this party member would not speculate on the origins or purpose of the stash. He, like other loyalists filed away the latest episode under ‘more malicious propaganda’ and ‘sinister witch hunts’, accused BBC of falling prey to Taliban influences and continued to promote the myth of a secular, working class party. Karachi has been at the receiving end of this ‘emotional outburst’ post elections when the (self) exiled leader (known as Bhai) openly threatened a small group of protestors via conference call broadcast on local media.

Farooq Sattar on his famous denying spree is not news. But the BBC documentary aired in July 2013 that has taken on a party with the power to bring an entire city to a complete standstill, or turn it into a battlefield depending on its mood, is talk of the town.

Karachi’s fate has been inextricably linked with London for two decades and the murky relationship is now under scrutiny as MQM (Mutahidda Qaumi Movement) is now forced to respond to a mix of allegations involving election fraud, hate speech, inciting violence, money laundering and murder. Declarations about loyalists who could turn 3 talwar (3 swords) - the name of landmark where a group of citizens had gathered - into real ones should they be so inclined, lacked subtlety. Some seditious commentary that suggested separating Karachi from Pakistan should its mandate fail to please following this startling pronouncement served as an eye opener for those unused to his style of oratory. The assassination of a 70 year old lady – an important political figure from the PTI family that came on the heels of these events on the day of the re-polling was taken by many as a warning shot. In many ways, May 2013 was a game changer and could potentially alter the trajectory of its most formidable power player.

MQM, notwithstanding its controversial design is a survivor and has weathered many storms. Its benevolent front is offset by a ruthless core allowing it to maintain its stranglehold. Granted, this is not the only party with affinity for an arms bearing faction but the militant wing is reportedly used as much to keep opposition in check as it is to keep its own people in line and a city of millions in fear. Now that their chief is in a legal bind, the future of the organization is called under question.

A few months ago, a talk show host wondered if they had prepared a post-Bhai contingency. Do children sit around the house preparing for a future where their father pops off, came the strange reply. If there was a contingency, it was clearly not open for discussion. Several things have happened since then. The Committee members were roughed up by their own workers and the setup has been overhauled; its erstwhile head stepped down for 2 seconds and is now under investigation. And the ‘bhatta’ (extortion) culture which they have developed to an art form, and land grabbing was put on hold – officially.

Since the British government’s involvement, the local rumor mill has gone into overdrive and citizens have been taking bets on when and if the London based leader/speechmaker will be arrested and the nature of the ripple effects on Pakistan’s financial hub. A party that describes itself as a ‘liberal’ organization, that believes in ‘realism practicalism’ and has taken three decades to put down roots is unlikely to fizzle out should that happen. Karachi, always a hair trigger away from violence can expect blowback from the arrest. Once a beneficiary of the infamous NRO (National Reconciliation Ordinance) 2007 that gave a ‘get out of jail free card’ to the top tier leadership charged with ‘68 murders, 30 attempted murders, 10 kidnappings and 70 balwa (rioting) cases', MQM’s sliding credibility is due in part to their own heavy handed approach, and careless talk about weaponry. Even ardent supporters look sheepish and flinch at the bosses’ obviously damaged speech mode.

An ill advised letter sent to Tony Blair that offered ‘intel’ on Taliban sanctuaries among other things and asked for help in disbanding the ISI could be one reason for MQM’s prolonged lifespan. For whatever reason, Altaf Hussain’s status has been downgraded from asset to liability and without the safety net of an NRO or a justice system that can be swayed, the coming days could spell a change for its political setup. Some believe this could be pressure tactics from Britain’s side to get MQM to ‘do more’ perhaps? Or maybe they no longer find them relevant with the imminent rise of PTI. Either way, the time may have come to start thinking of re-branding the outfit and stop playing games with Pakistan’s economic heart.

Images Courtesy of: http://mw2.google.com/mw-panoramio/photos/small/77023731.jpg
http://media.carbonated.tv/109961_story__fff.JPG

Comments

  1. Deep stuff. But this is Pakistani politics, fickle as a changeful dream. All eyes should be on PMLN and how they tackle MQM.

    i <3 your writings though,they are constantly good :).

    cheers
    jamal

    ReplyDelete
  2. Grazie. wrote this last month when Bhai was a goner...so every1 thought.It's still relevant but yes...fickle sums us up nicely. P.S Shers tackle Don,..that would b the day...P.SS. thanks for sharing this on FB. ...really appreciate it.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Book of Davis - Reading between the lines

Published by Global Affairs / Aug 2017

Raymond Davis is a champ. A team player, who puts the needs of his comrades in arms before himself. He is savvy. He is a man of integrity - a survivor - a trooper. Ray, the epitome of courage runs headlong towards danger and into a minefield - literally. He is all this and more. This is his story after all.

6 years ago, he was a trained Special Forces SF, undercover ‘contractor’, forced to navigate the cramped alleyways of Lahore on a routine mission – the details of which remain a mystery. His book ‘The Contractor: How I Landed in a Pakistani Prison and Ignited a Diplomatic Crisis’ with Storms Reback, revisits the scene of the crime to solidify his innocence and along the way take a few potshots at random players who helped secure his release. It’s a hair-raising ride.

His style is conversational, his demeanor - amiable. The case is still fresh in people’s minds and his intent to set the record straight ignites yet another round of controversy…

OPED: Keeping the Truth & Reconciliation Train on Track in Pakistan & Bangladesh

Published by Global Affairs / June 2017

It is no secret that Pakistan’s Eastern Wing broke away or that India helped carve Bangladesh in 1971. There were weaknesses to be exploited and deep seated resentments that left sizeable fissures in between Pakistan’s East and West wing. The Indian PM Modi can now tip his hat to 1,661 Indian soldiers allied with an armed resistance – the dreaded Mukti Bahini without fear of reprisal. Of late, there have been whispers about a KGB element in the mix. But the past is over and done with. Or is it?

There was madness and mayhem and civil unrest. Both sides suffered. The figure of three million offered by Bangladesh however has been widely disputed. While there has been a lot of water under the bridge since 1971- there has not been any serious attempt at breaching the divide. But most Pakistanis have not whitewashed their history and acknowledge their errors in judgment and lack of political foresight that led to the debacle.

‘The wall between Bangl…

BOOK REVIEW: Hira Mandi / Author: Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson

Published in Daily Times Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reproduced on Claudine Le Tourneur Dlson's Website

Translated from French by Priyanka Jhijaria

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

A programme about Hira Mandi did the internet rounds a couple of years ago. It claimed, among other things, that the sons of the ‘dancers’ reportedly end up as lawyers, doctors, artists — a few join politics and some even reach the military. These outrageous statistics may be one of the reasons the documentary was banned from the mainstream media. That and its primary premise — the plight of the fallen women — would prompt the conservatives to howl with dismay before scurrying off to bury any evidence in the backyard along with other bodies.


Claudine Le Tourneur d’Ison embeds such wrenching moments in a bold narrative where its doomed protagonist can hail the brave new world and its genteel patrons from an extraordinary vantage point. The expedition to the underworld with the unfortunate progeny and the hapless…

VIEW: WOMEN in the PAF: AN ENSEMBLE CAST

PUBLISHED in HILAL (Pakistan Armed Forces Magazine) Feb 2010

By Afrah Jamal

Progressive - Conservative - Contemporary - Professional; separately these terms could apply to any service; together they were reserved for just one - the PAF.

Pakistan Air Force has kept in touch with its roots through its glorious traditions and kept up with the changing times with innovative thinking. Oftentimes, traditions that made it stand apart have also stood in the way of, well - progress. Consequently, the service nimbly skipped past the one proposed change that was going to have a profound effect on the lives of countless young girls and would forever alter the way society perceived their womenfolk.

Before 1994, Lady Officers were a rare sight in the PAF. So rare in fact, that when male cadets donned wigs to represent the female species in annual variety shows, nobody wondered why. By 2010, women have become an indispensable part of the service. While, PAF was no stranger to a woman in uniform, a f…

OPED: Radd-ul-Fassad – An Urgent Revision in the Wake of Mashal Khan's Lynching

Published Global Affairs / June 2017

Written in the immediate aftermath of Mashal Khan's lynching

On December 2014, 148 people, mostly school kids were murdered by terrorists in the APS (Army Public School) school massacre. In April 2017, a university student was lynched in Mardan. One tragedy marked a turning point. Another opens a Pandora’s Box.

APS happened while Operation Zarb-e-Azb was underway. It shook the nation to its very core; and pushed the armed forces to expand the scope of its offensives. Military courts were set up in the aftermath. A death row inmate (Qadri), once lauded by clergy and lawyers for killing a Governor, was finally executed along with scores of militants.

And soon another operation would come into effect after shrines, rallies and public places were targeted in a resurgence of terror in 2017. If the first was driven by vengeance, the second came from desperation. Pakistan’s survival was at stake – unless it tackled the darkness head on. But the dark…

BOOK REVIEW: Pakistan: Beyond The ‘Crisis State’ / Author: Maleeha Lodhi

Thanks to Liberty Books for the review copy

Published in Daily Times / Saturday, June 18, 2011

Reviewed by Afrah Jamal

Published under the title: 17 Reasons to Hope

“History will be what we make it. If we go on as we are, history will have its revenge and retribution”— from the movie, ‘Good Night, & Good Luck’

A region known for most “terrorist sightings”, a place feared for harbouring medieval mindsets next to progressive thinkers and a nation shunned for having an affinity for nuclear toys. By turns a cautionary tale, an indispensable ally and an international pariah, Pakistan does not fit into any mould — for long. But its name crops up whenever things go awry.

Pakistan: Beyond the ‘Crisis State’ is a compilation of articles put together by Maleeha Lodhi that countermands the grim prognosis. When Ms Lodhi, who has served as Pakistan’s ambassador to the US and UK, acknowledges that “resilience has been part of Pakistan’s story from its inception, obscured by the single issue lens…

BOOK REVIEW: Operation Geronimo – the Betrayal and Execution of Osama Bin Laden and its Aftermath

Published in Daily Times (Pakistan) / 27 April 2013
Author: Shaukat Qadir
Reviewed by: Afrah Jamal



Book Cover Courtesy: Link

The insider account by a former SEAL later used to prop up the raid sequence of ‘Zero Dark Thirty fills in the dramatic details but a change in vantage point zooms in on the Pakistani equation. In less than a 100 pages, the author proceeds to tie up loose ends leftover from the reams of official spin surrounding the events of May 1 2011.

He is a retired infantry Brigadier from Pakistan Army who uses his unprecedented access to the corridors of military power to launch an independent inquiry into the incident. His research takes in isolated facts, hidden motives and shadowy agendas to create an alternate timeline of events. They correspond with the main outlines of the sanctioned version but differ in the approach. The resultant document builds an appealing profile that demands a second look at the so called ‘mansion’ in Abbottabad and the dead man walking within…