The MQM-P, PSP merger that went awry

  • On the evening of 9th November, we were treated to quite a show where PSP's Syed Mustafa Kamal and MQM-P's Farooq sat together and announced some joint programmes for the future. Whiie Farooq Sattar gave clear understanding of close cooperation between the two in future - without in fact talking of an outright merger - Mustafa Kamal was more specific and declared that the two parties will fight the next general elections together, with one election symbol and with one party name, which won't be MQM. And this obviously meant that both PSP and MQM-P will merge, and losing their individual identities, will in future operate under a new name that was still to be decided. And while Farooq Sattar did not applaud the announcement of merger, the absence of his outright rebuttal meant that perhaps MQM also was not averse to such a move, which was being considered and was awaiting final decision.

    I strongly believe that having been relieved of the undesirables within their fold through the fierce operation by Rangers and police, the coming together of MQM-P and PSP would be in the best interests of the parties, the country, as well as of the city and its residents which has the Urdu-speaking community as the largest single group, but has also significant presence of other ethnicity, to all of whom the city belongs. In fact, I feel MQM-Haqiqi should also join the grouping in the interest of the city and its residents and indeed for their own sake.

    However, only hours later, Farooq Sattar backed out of the arrangement, claiming that the MQM-P will not merge with any party and will contest the next elections under the MQM name, with kite as its election symbol.

    I would have thought that the event must have followed months of close consultation between the leaders of two parties - which was also admitted by the two leaders - during which at the least the basic point about both parties losing their identity to acquire a new, common one, ought to have been sorted out. If not then Farooq Sattar should have clarified the point while Mustafa Kamal was announcing it as an 'agreed' point.

    One might even think that perhaps Farooq Sattar, while not too happy with a name-change, was not strongly opposed to it either and had hoped that once the thing was announced, other prominent MQM leaders who had not been taken into confidence on this issue will also go along with it. However, in the face of strong opposition, he has changed his stance.

    And that is odd because, after all, a name is just a label and what really matters is the quality of the product and its benefits to the masses. In any case, MQM has changed from Mohajir Qaumi Movement to Mutahidda Qaumi Movement and now has a suffix P attached to it. So, if a change of name at this stage could prove to be a uniting factor and be in the larger interest of the people it represents, why dismiss it altogether? And even if the name-change amounts to swallowing a bitter pill, why not do it in the larger interest of just about every one.

    We all know that the courage and fighting capability of our armed forces is known and acknowledged world-wide, and the fact that it has kept at bay the forces of India which is about five times our size proves this.

    We also know that ethnic bias of Ayub Khan against Bengalis (and Urdu-speaking people of course) and his mistreatment of them created circumstances for the separation of the eastern wing. And his nominee Gen. Yahya Khan, instead of undoing the injustice, or arranging a peaceful separation if that had become unavoidable, sent armed forces to East Pakistan to subdue and 'punish' Bengalis. However, when the Indian army moved in, the forces under Lt-Gen. Amir Abdullah Khan (Tiger) Niazi surrendered. They could have demonstrated courage and fought on to the last man, but that would not have altered the outcome; only fatalities would have increased enormously. Having no air cover, cut off from West Pakistan with no hope of getting supplies and reinforcements and the indigenous population dead against them, they had absolutely no chance. And that means that the tragic effects of initially not giving majority Bengalis their due share, and adding to it the stupidity of sending armed forces to fight a war which they had no chance of winning was bad enough as it is. Adding to it the ultimate folly of fighting 'to the last man' would only have magnified the stupidity.

    There are lessons in the above for MQM as well. The fact that APMSO and MQM were not formed until a good three decades after the creation of Pakistan clearly means that the Mohajirs- I prefer the term Urdu-speaking people - were not too keen on projecting their separate ethnicity. However, the squeeze put on them by Ayub Khan - made worse by the father-and-son team after the Urdu-speaking people supported Mohtarma Fatima Jinnah against Ayub Khan - forced the Urdu-speaking people to organize for their self defence and survival. And the fact that the police in those days comprised almost wholly of people from Punjab did not help matters either. However, the MQM which was formed basically to seek justice for Urdu-speaking people was in time hijacked by some unscrupulous leaders who strayed away from their main objective and started enjoying power for its own sake, and misusing it to commit excesses and even for making illicit financial gains. And the result is that the party has lost the overwhelming support that it once enjoyed among the Urdu-speaking people, except for those hardliners who live in the vicinity of Ninezero and perhaps in Liaquatabad. And the net result is that the MQM now stands badly splintered and decimated, with its demise not too far away, in case it fails to learn its lessons and take corrective action to avert the impending disaster.

    So if Lt-Gen. Tiger Niazi could swallow a bitter pill, why can't MQM-P leaders to the same, when the move is expected to ease things up for just about everyone. A real leader should lead and not be dictated to by the hardliners within the party.

    During the joint press conference, Farooq Sattar also vowed to restore the respect deserved by the term 'Bhai'.

    I do hope that this was in response to Mustafa Kamal calling him Farooq Sattar Saheb, and not Farooq Bhai which is the normal practice within the party. And I sure hope he did not refer to the Big Bhai Altaf Hussain.

    No one disputes that APMSO and MQM got formed due to long, difficult struggle by Altaf Hussain during which Altaf Hussain made many sacrifices, including losing losing his brother and a nephew. As such, it is natural for the MQM followers to have a special feeling for him in their hearts. Unfortunately, all this respect went to his head and made Altaf Hussain more of a ruthless dictator in place of a leader seeking due rights and respect for the Urdu speaking people. And in order to maintain his position at the top, he was alleged even to have committed uncalled for atrocities. And his hard-line policies brought him into direct confrontation with the law enforcers most of whom seem to be from Punjab, which province had shown ethnic feelings against Urdu-speaking migrants as early as 1947. And as the story goes, Altaf Hussain was bundled off to London where he has been living ever-since.

    Removed from his people and living an unnatural life in London, Altaf Hussain seems to have resorted to heavy drinking. And over time, all these factors have turned him into a mental wreck which fact gets reflected in his incoherent rants broadcast live to his followers in Pakistan. The fact that Altaf Hussain often apologized the very next day in respect of many of his speeches only serves to confirm that he was not in his senses while making those speeches. And during his last speech, he crossed all limits and even openly talked against Pakistan. Of course, cases have been filed against him, and even against MQM leaders despite their firm rejection of the speech and making a vompletel break from Altaf Hussain and his London setup.

    At this stage, I would say that Altaf Hussain has exacted much more than a fair price for his services to the Urdu-speaking people, and the community does not stand indebted to him any longer. In fact, Altaf Hussain could be termed a big debtor to the Urdu-speaking community because of causing more problems for them as compared to the benefits he managed to bestow on the community. t

    So, instead of showing too much sentimentality towards Altaf Hussain and the name MQM, the leaders of the Urdu-speaking community should concentrate what is in the best interest of the community, as well as for their fellow residents of other ethnicity in Karachi, Sindh and elsewhere in Pakistan.

    I do not often agree with what Gen. Musharraf says. However, I do think that he was right to suggest that since MQM has got a bad name, the Mohajirs should unite under a different name. After all, the alleged involvement of senior MQM leaders in atrocities like Baldia factory fire hardly serves to establish the democratic credentials of the party and these association would not be forgotten by the rest of Pakistanis. So, I do feel that adopting a new name was not such a bad idea after all. Moreover, such a move could also make them a bit less 'unacceptable' to the powers that be who have become totally opposed to this name. And they seem to have been given a free hand, which is perhaps far too free for the comfort of the Urdu-speaking community. This points gets confirmed through the statement of Mustafa Kamal who said that he got 70 Urdu-speaking people released from Rangers custody. Now, if they had committed serious crimes, why were they released? And on the other hand, if they were innocent, why were they apprehended in the first place? The thing looks ugly both ways.

    We also know that despite admission of torture and death of MQM senior member Aftab Ahmed, no befitting punishment was announced publicly. The atrocity would not have been committed without clearance from higher ups. And while no one expected some army-backed Rangers officials to be sent to firing squad, some befitting action ought to have been taken against those who committed the excesses. And we know that the then Rangers director general was later promoted as a Lt-Gen and given a prestigious position. Obviously the move would have given 'encouragement' to others am

    We often hear Rangers officials making comments like "Days are gone when Karachi could be shut up on one call" or "Altaf Hussain congratulated killers of PSP followers." No wonder the law enforcers have brought the Karachiites a much-needed relief, and gained a victory against MQM, but it is against a group which offered no physical resistant" and, as such, it is not worth-mentioning every now and then directly or indirectly.

    The statements also create an impression of a personal bias. I wish the law enforcers could announce that they have gained a complete victory and totally disabled those elements which are alleged to have killed 70,000 Pakistanis including 8,000 soldiers, with a serving Major General, on top of doing $120 billion damage to the country's economy, and that the "days are gone when they could stage another attack anywhere in the country." But of course, that position has not been reached yet' neither is there any a possibility of accomplishment of this goal anytime soon. Incidentally, these militants and terrorists happen to be the creation of an imprudent, over-ambitious General

    ziaul Haq who, in order to prolong his rule, unwisely involved Pakistan in the US revenge war with the Soviet Union, to fight which these half-baked mujahids were created.

    Coming back to the change of NQM's name, while it is indeed desirable, it should come from within the party and no attempt should be made by authorities to force it on them. And there is a definite need for the army high command to advise their seconded officers in the Rangers to do their duty and not to get involved in 'political re-engineering' which is none of their business and in which field they have no expertise as proved by failure of such initiatives by some imprudent Generals in the past.

    I hope good sense prevails all around though I do accept that given the state of mind of our people, that is a bit too much to ask. However, having been halved in a mere 24 years, if we do not rise to the occasion even at this late hour, and continue behaving irresponsibly even in the circumstances where, after plundering Iraq, Libya and Syria, the international powers are bent on dismembering the only nuclear-armed state in the Muslim world - and Iran of course - and things are not quite normal even within Pakistan, then we would forfeit the right to continue as an independent, sovereign state.

    I do hope and pray that our arrogant and imprudent leaders do not take things to that stage.