Noose around MQM tightened

By  Asif Haroon Raja

Altaf Hussain founded All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organisation (APSMO) in June 1978. This platforpakistans-mqm-leader-alta-006m raised slogans of Muhajirs socio-politico-economic grievances and their persecution by other ethnic communities. After the birth of MQM in March 1984, the party made strenuous efforts to control Karachi through acts of violence. For this purpose, it divided the city into sectors and nominated sector commanders and unit commanders and converted localities into no-go-areas. It established a militant wing in 1986 and introduced the cultures of torture cells, sacked filled dead bodies, extortion, kidnapping for ransom, car/motorcycle snatching. Major brunt of fascism came upon Urdu speaking community.

Its fascist policies helped in terrorizing the people of Karachi, subduing/politicizing law enforcement agencies, controlling media houses, government, autonomous and semi-autonomous bodies. In 1988 elections, MQM swept the polls in urban Sindh and also captured seats in the centre using ethnic card of Muhajir identity and power of gun. It became part of government with PPP in Sindh and in Centre. By 1990, it was able to create a state within state in Karachi. Altaf was eulogized and idolized by his followers and he was projected as an icon and a spiritual leader.

Once PML-N captured power, MQM once again became its coalition partner in Sindh and in Centre. Altaf Hussain, chief of MQM was given political asylum in London after he fled from Karachi hospital in May 1992 because of life threats from his colleagues in his party. Altaf had 3576 cases of heinous nature against him and yet he was awarded British nationality in 2002 and allowed to establish MQM International Secretariat in London. All the runaway MQM leaders involved in dozens of criminal cases in Pakistan were allowed to hire houses in posh area of London and since then are leading an affluent life. Expenses of International Secretariat come to 100,000 pounds sterling per month. For the upkeep of their high lifestyle, MQM Rabita Committee with its HQ at Nine Zero in Karachi channelizes the needed funds.

Tanzeemi Committee manages the affairs of Sector/Unit HQs while Khidmat Khalq forcibly collects donations, animal hides, Zakat, Fitrana, charity money and is involved in money laundering. Each sector and unit commander is in direct communication with Altaf and they carry out assigned tasks unquestioningly. It is alleged that biggest sources of earning are extortion money and land grabbing, but it has multiple sources of income. MQM ministers have always vied for Home Ministry and Port & Shipping Ministry since it has control over imports/exports, arms smuggling and money laundering by sea. Besides funding from Pakistan, India has been paying 800,000 pounds sterling to the MQM on a yearly basis for running terror operations in Karachi as disclosed by Tariq Mir to London Police on May 30, 2012.

Since 1992, Altaf has been remote controlling his party from London and giving regular sermons on telephone to his party workers. The MQM’s militancy was first jolted during 1992 military operation, but it couldn’t achieve much progress since the entire leadership went underground and arms dumps couldn’t be recovered. Moreover, the judicial and socio-economic prongs as well as the political will could not keep in step with the military prong. Nawaz Sharif gave in to political expediency and terminated the operation midway. Thereon, MQM and breakaway faction MQM Haqiqi under Amer and Afaq fought for the control of Karachi and in the process made the port city highly restive. 15000 fatalities of MQM workers which the MQM continue alleging were killed during Operation Cleanup in 1992 is a false claim and whatever casualties those were in reality because of their infighting.

MQM’s militancy was contained to quite an extent in the 1995-1996 Police-Rangers operation headed by Interior Minister retired Gen Naseerullah Babar, but it was also called off inconclusively after PPP government came under pressure on account of charge of extra judicial killings of MQM activists involved in criminal activities and was later sacked by President Leghari on charges of corruption. MQM while sharing power with PML-N was charged with murder of saintly Hakim Said in October 1998 and when the Sindh government refused to hand over the suspected culprits, Governor Rule had to be imposed in Sindh. MQM leaders went underground.

After Gen Musharraf took over power in October 1999, sagging fortunes of the MQM started swinging upwards. When Musharraf submitted to all the demands of Washington after 9/11, Altaf Hussain hastened to write a letter to the then British PM Tony Blair offering him ‘limitless resources’ for human intelligence to monitor activities of Madrassas, fundamentalists and Taliban in Pakistan. He also sought disbandment of ISI, cautioning Blair that the spy agency will produce many Osama bin Laden’s and Taliban in future. The MQM regained its strength and became extremely strong during Gen Musharraf’s nine-year rule. MQM Haqiqui was pulverized. Local government system suited MQM the most which enabled the MQM to gain control over almost 95% of port city. Ishrat ul Abad installed as Governor in 2002 was of great advantage to the party.

Musharraf took no notice of Altaf Hussain’s most damaging speech made in Delhi in 2001 in which he stated that “Division of the subcontinent was the biggest blunder in the history of mankind and Nehru and Abdul Kalam Azad are responsible for it because they rejected that grouping formula and greater autonomy for Muslim majority province of India. If they accepted it then Jinnah would have never demanded separate Pakistan and Jinnah was ready for co-exist within India.” He asked India to open its doors to every Mohajir, who went to Pakistan after the partition. He appealed to the Indian politicians to forgive the people who left and let them return. Whatever doubts about secret Musharraf-MQM alignment were removed after the unfortunate May 12, 2007 in Karachi in which 60 people were gunned down by MQM goons to prevent the then Chief Justice to enter port city and address the Sindh Bar Council. This fact has been admitted by Rauf, MQM sector commander of Mehmoodabad, after he was arrested by the Rangers this year.

MQM and PPP were the biggest beneficiaries of infamous NRO issued by Gen Musharraf on October 5, 2007, which pardoned 8000 MQM leaders including Altaf and activists involved in heinous crimes and dozens of PPP leaders involved in mega corruption. MQM shared power with PPP from March 2008 till February 2013 and further bolstered its financial as well as its political strength in urban Sindh. During this period, while the PPP leaders milked the country with both hands and reduced it to a carcass, the MQM also fleeced Karachi and resorted to the gory practice of target killings to eliminate political opposition and gain full control over the city. Target killers trained in India created chaos and fear and stoked ethnicity and sectarianism. Nine Zero, Sector/Unit HQs and Governor House became safe havens for the target killers while politicized police protected them.

MQM also made full use of an alternative base of operation in South Africa opened in 1996 where about 1000 target killers are based and each killer had multiple passports to be able to visit Karachi via other countries for short periods.  200 police officers who had taken part in operation cleanup in Karachi in 1992 were eliminated one by one by the MQM militants. Likewise, over 100 police officers associated with 1995-96 operation in Karachi were killed by MQM thugs. The families of martyred were abandoned by the State and the killers allowed to roam about freely.

Karachi went from bad to worse during the PPP-MQM-ANP coalition government in Sindh. Whole efforts of Zardari were devoted towards keeping MQM appeased than in sorting out the affairs of the province. On the average, 10-15 target killings took place daily. 12,000 people were killed in five years and not a single target killer was punished because of weak and faulty investigative system and compromised judiciary. One of the offenders Ajmal Pahari nabbed in 2011 confessed to have killed 111 people. He also confessed that he and his colleagues were imparted military training in India. He was let off by courts for lack of evidence. Taking note of rising lawlessness in Karachi, Supreme Court took suo moto notice and established a bench in 2011 to overview the situation. The JIT submitted its report stating that all Karachi based political parties had militant wings duly patronized by party leadership. Chief Justice passed an order to disband the militant wings but no action was taken and killing spree continued unabated.

Karachi has been plundered with both hands. Rs 10 million was earned from extortion daily, Rs 50 million from kidnapping for ransom, 2.4 million from parking mafia, Rs 100 million by water mafia, Rs 150 million by narcotics/gambling dens. Roadside stalls paid Rs 8.25 million bhatta daily, while public transport, containers, oil tankers, trucks paid Rs 14.8 million goonda tax daily. Rs 15 million was lost in power theft while hospitals collected Rs 3 million for medical slips daily. 40-50 motorcycles and 20-25 cars were stolen daily accounting for loss of Rs 2.5 million. Police had its share in the loot and so had other government departments whose palms were greased to get petty works done. Total loss each day came to Rs 830 million.

PPP and MQM as coalition partners in Sindh government were behind the rampant and prolonged lawlessness, colossal corruption and financial plunder reported to be reaching a staggering figure of 230 billion rupees annually. The culprits and outlaws apprehended by Rangers in Karachi revealed that most of these elements committing extortion, kidnapping, stealing and selling water, occupying the land both private and state owned are patronized by MQM and PPP. It has also been ascertained that fire in Baldia Town garment factory in which 289 people were burnt to death was lit by MQM sector commander Bhola since the factory owner had refused to give the extortion money. Journalist Wali Babar was killed by Faisal Mota. During the trial, all the witnesses were systematically killed and so were investigation officers.

All records of harvesting money through every corrupt and coercive means were broken in Sindh. The ministers and their hired gangs and mafias were involved in a multitude of grabbing vacant private or government land, sale of municipal water, licenses for fish harbors, and exit and entry fees in the port and so on.  It means that those who should be the saviors and custodians of the life and property of the citizens and guardians of the societal peace are themselves robber barons, patrons of cutthroat mafias and enemies of the people.

Zardari, Qaim Ali Shah, Ishratul Ebad police, bureaucracy and three ruling political parties were responsible for making Karachi anarchic and for the loss of so many lives. MQM lost its blackmailing tactics after May 2013 elections since the PML-N didn’t require its political support in the Centre; so was the case with the PPP in Sindh. Thereon, MQM has been on a downhill journey and it is landing in one trouble after another because of its own misdoings.

PPP less MQM is still in the driving seat and with the same captain who had miserably failed to control lawlessness and target killings in Karachi. Till beginning of July 2015, Zardari was hand-in-glove with Altaf and both had schemed to fail the Rangers led operation in Karachi. However, Zardari’s insensible outburst against the military proved too costly for him. Feeling the heat of flak, he has decided to stay away from MQM and to mend fences with the military. Bilawal’s meeting with Commander 5 Corps followed by Zardari’s conciliatory gestures, grant of one-year extension to Rangers by Sindh government and cosmetic changes in portfolios of the ministers/bureaucrats were meant to placate the Rangers and military.

MQM had remained in good books of USA, UK and India since its birth in 1984. Altaf and other MQM leaders based in London came on the wrong side of British government after London Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard suspected them of being involved in the murder of senior MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq in September 2010 and subjected them to interrogation. They were also accused of money laundering. MQM Secretariat in Edgware and Altaf’s mansion in Mill Hill were raided which led to recovery of unaccounted 500,000 pounds sterling. Subsequent inquiries and revelations made by MQM senior leaders based in London Muhammad Anwar and Tariq Mir brought out that India had been regularly providing funds to Altaf Hussain to carryout terrorism in Pakistan using British soil. This fact was endorsed by Sarfaraz Merchant as well as BBC documentary released in June 2015.

As a result of PTI’s political activism in Karachi, which again was seen as a threat to MQM’s vote bank, Altaf was charged for inciting violence through his telephonic address on May 20, 2013. In his inflammatory speech, he had exhorted his workers to cut the fingers of burger type supporters of PTI. Imran Khan held MQM responsible for the murder of PTI senior worker Zahra Shahid. London Metropolitan Police received unprecedented numbers of complaints from Pakistan, Britain and elsewhere asking it as to why it was not taking notice of incitement of violence by British national Altaf Hussain? He was accordingly charged and cautioned to control his reckless behavior and not to incite violence in future. Once the noose tightened, he cried out that the London Police and British government were conspiring to kill him. Unlike in Karachi where the MQM has the power to paralyse the city, it couldn’t carry out any sort of violent act in UK except for propaganda war which also boomeranged. MQM member Kaleem arrested by Rangers this year admitted that he killed PTI official Zahra in May 2013 on orders from Nine Zero.

Once all Sindh based political parties agreed to launch intelligence based targeted operation by Rangers and Police in Karachi in September 2013, MQM started demanding induction of Pakistan Army for operation in Karachi and expressed distrust in Rangers and in JIT. This was done with mala fide intentions since MQM knew that Army soldiers were not trained in urban terrorism. Embroiling the Army in city would have resulted in depletion of deployment from the Western as well as Eastern borders, involved the Army in street fights. There would have been pitched battles in the streets given the huge quantities of weapons and ammunition available with these elements (courtesy the missing containers), casualties on both sides, blames of excesses  being committed by the Army, hue and cry at the international level, induction of new or activation of sleeping elements already inducted by foreign players, claims of use of unconventional methods and banned substances by the Army, international pressure on Pakistan to engage in negotiations with the anti-social elements and finally some international players actively jumping into the fray as had happened in case of Libya and Syria.

False flag incidents of use of unconventional weapons by the Army would have been stage managed and propagandized to muster international sympathy for action against Pakistan. The Western media would have termed Army actions as heavy handed and ruthless, as has been the case in Balochistan; or was the case in erstwhile East Pakistan.  The powers that be would have taken the side of the rebels and provided moral and material support invoking international sympathy for the oppressed people.  Foreign media in collusion with own media would have kicked up an orchestrated campaign portraying Army as brutal and committing excesses against own people. Army wisely decided to stay out and let the Rangers backed by Army and intelligence to carry on till the elimination of terrorism and crime.

MQM’s connection with India was always suspected and some proofs were gathered during 1995 operation. This has been affirmed by ex IG Police Shoaib Suddle. SSP Malir Rao Anwar further confirmed the linkage in May 2015 by claiming before the media that the two arrested suspects of MQM – Tahir alias Lamba and Mama Junaid had confessed that they and other members of MQM had been visiting Delhi via Bangkok for training by RAW and sent back via Indian held Kashmir to Pakistan to spread terror in Karachi. He added, “MQM is spreading terror in the guise of a political party, and all the senior leaders of MQM including its chief Altaf Hussain are involved in spreading terror in the country”. Javed Langra, Sector In-charge Lines Area who had fled to India in 1992 as a result of Army Operation is the chief handler of all MQM members arriving in India. Training was conducted by an Army man Ram at Dheradun. Training started in 1990 and advance training was given in Afghanistan under the auspices of Ahmad Shah Masud. Zulfiqar Haider, M. Anwar and Nadeem Nusrat, the deputy convener of MQM, funded these terrorist activities from London.

It is now being widely contemplated that MQM’s mandate in urban Sindh has been gained through manipulation and under the barrel of the gun. On one hand MQM’s hold over the city is weakening, and on the other its Supremo’s credibility has been dented because of charges of money laundering and incitement of violence pinned upon him and accusations made by his former wife Faiza Gabol in her divorce case. Mystery of murder of Dr Imran is now about to be solved after the hired killers (Kashif and Mohsin) and those who had facilitated/abetted the murder (Muazam and Khalid Shamim) have been traced and are in the custody of Pakistani security agencies. Scotland Yard has interrogated Muazam and Mohsin and all missing links have been linked. Ongoing probe is giving nightmares to Altaf. The dilemma is that the party cannot survive without Altaf, and the latter can neither return to Pakistan, nor can live safely in London.

Raid on Nine Zero on March 11, 2015 in which several most wanted target killers were arrested and large cache of prohibited bore weapons, ammunition and explosives including NATO arms were seized and the arrested terrorists disclosed details of MQM terrorism unnerved Altaf and he lost his sense of coherence. He threatened that the Rangers officers and men who had raided Nine Zero had become history. On another occasion, he insulted the military establishment by passing derogatory remarks against the Generals and asked his followers to buy weapons and get commando training to confront the security forces. He also sought help from RAW. On yet another occasion he threatened and slighted DG Rangers.

Ex RAW chief Dulat rightly commented that Altaf Hussain is the guest of MI-6, otherwise how it is possible that the man charged with money laundering, tax evasion, inciting violence and suspected of Dr Imran’s murder continues to deliver highly offensive speeches for hours unchecked. Would the UK government tolerate a British absconder with a criminal record hurling threats against British institutions from Pakistan? Rangers are now picking up MQM leaders organizing and facilitating hate speeches of Altaf. Those nominated in well over 100 FIRs in almost every city have gone in hiding.

In continuation of his theatrics, Altaf has now gone on hunger strike unto death but very soon MQM Rabita Committees in Karachi and London would successfully persuade him to call off the strike. He also intends calling World Muhajir conference and then approach the UN, seeking their intervention to provide security and succor to Muhajirs in Karachi. He ignores the hard reality that for the first time since 1984, people of Karachi thoroughly enjoyed Eid in a free atmosphere and did record Eid shopping of Rs 70 billion. The Army and Rangers had never before received such effusive support of the public. Altaf has outpaced Zardari in unpopularity and is now the most hated person in Pakistan.

Gen Raheel, Lt Gen Naveed and Maj Gen Bilal are clear and firm in their resolve to cleanse Karachi from the menace of terrorism and crime once and for all. This kind of resolve is not seen among the Sindh government. While Zardari is in Dubai, over 100 PPP ministers, officials and bureaucrats involved in annual loot of Rs 230 billion and in financial terrorism have quietly sneaked abroad. So-called shuffle in appointments is mere superficial.

Barring Ch Nisar, even the federal government doesn’t appear to be very enthusiastic to take the ongoing operation to its logical end since progress on implementation of 20-point National Action Plan is painfully slow. It must also be understood that UK government and Police at the behest of MI-6 are playing a double game and will neither convict Altaf nor deport him to Pakistan. PTI is the only political party exposing MQM’s terrorism boldly. Its decision to hold a demonstration in front of MQM Secretariat in London on July 25 needs to be appreciated. What is urgently needed is thorough purging of MQM and de-weaponisation of Karachi and elimination of Mafias, terrorists and criminals who have soaked Karachi in blood. People are expectantly waiting when the big fish of MQM and PPP will be netted and Karachi once again made the city of lights.

The writer is a retired Brig, defence analyst/columnist/book writer.

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