Karachi, MQM and Establishment

By Atta Rasool Malik

Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) part their ways soon after their merger. A day earlier Press conference of Mustafa Kamal and Farooq Sattar had captured nationwide attention and their statements and pledges made headlines on national media. Then it appeared that Muhajirs were ready to say goodbye to infamous legacy of Altaf Hussain. In the press conference, both the leaders announced to form a new political party with fresh charter and agreed to contest next elections under unified new symbol. They happily named this unification as a ‘marriage’ between PSP and MQM-Pakistan. The people all over the country hailed the development and considered it a new dawn, a good omen for prosperity and development of Karachi. But the very next day everything changed. Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Kamal accused and blamed each other for enjoying patronage of the establishment.

Few analysts called the event, an ‘arranged marriage’ through establishment which failed. I differed because in Pakistan ‘arranged marriages’ drag on and survive but the ‘love marriages’ quite often breakup at a very early stage. Therefore, to me either it was a ‘love marriage’ aimed at preserving Mohajir vote bank and identity, where Farooq Sattar could not sustain internal and external pressure, or it was a trap for Mustafa Kamal to prove him as an agencies’ stooge and to defame Pakistani establishment for unconstitutional political engineering. That means the ‘marriage’ was designed by foreign agencies to break off soon after it was ‘consummated’.

The thesis that Pakistani establishment had ‘arranged the merger’ is weak at best. Pakistani establishment must not be that naïve to ignore unique party structure of MQM Pakistan and the weak control and influence of Farooq Sattar within the party. in this case the second and third tier leadership of MQM Pakistan was not taken into confidence or suitably pressurized to follow Farooq Sattar. Furthermore, reputation of members of new political entity was not above board and other stakeholders/ethnicities not included in the newly envisioned merger, hence, the serious flaws in homework and poor planning. Pakistani establishment can be labelled anything but not ‘naive’ in politics of Karachi.

Pakistan People Party (PPP) looked at the event as anti-PPP drive which had failed. They had a point, of course, united MQM seriously affect vote bank of PPP in Karachi. PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has urged the establishment to explain allegations being levelled against it and Qamar Zaman Kaira, while going a step further demands a judicial commission to probe the actual story behind the MQM-P and the PSP’s short-lived alliance.

The PML-N leaders squarely blame establishment’s hand in every new happening after Nawaz Sharif’s disqualification. They complain that ‘Rawalpindi’ is becoming restive and, like in the 1990s, wants to covertly manage politics even when its core interests are not threatened.

There is a mounting criticism on establishment in the country for occupying space more than its fair share. Though it would be highly interesting to point out that definition of establishment in Sind particularly Karachi and that in Punjab are very different, Establishment in Punjab means Pak Army and its premier intelligence agency ISI. However, Karachites refer the term ‘establishment’ to mean Pak Army, Intelligence agencies [both civil and military], bureaucracy and Judiciary. As per limited and extended definition of establishment, various organs of Pakistani state are ruthlessly being blamed, which serve the agenda of the enemies of Pakistan.

I have family members and few friends in Sind and quite often travel to Karachi. Some of the obvious changes that I have seen in Karachi are; no forced markets shut down whenever MQM supporters wish to do it, reduced extortion ‘bhattas’, no demands of ‘Khaal’ on Bakra Eid, no forcing to attend political gathering of MQM and the street crime rate has fallen to a great extent. Though the city is not completely secure as one would like ‘it should’.

The law and order situation has improved significantly and one can see so many positive things happening in the city. Karachi is a home of around 20 million people. It is the economic powerhouse of the country and a melting pot of diverse culture, languages, ethnicity and races and is known to welcome everyone.

Few days back Maj Gen Muhammad Saeed, DG Rangers Sind spoke in frank and candid manner while talking to TV program Kamran Khan Kay Sath. He reminded the viewers that Karachi operation started with full consensus of all political parties in the year 2013. There used to be about 8 target killings and 2 cases of heavy ransom daily. 8 to 10 crore extortions were taken from innocent people also on daily basis. There were number of no-go areas and Liari gang war was dreadful. Now Liari gang war is over, and the area is known for sport activities rather than crimes. There are no no-go areas. Rangers are conducting intelligence-based operations. He said rangers and agencies keep contact with all stakeholders. Their sole aim is to keep peace in the City. Which political party wants to merge with whom; they have no concern. He denied any role in making MQM Pakistan or sponsoring PSP. He alluded to the fact that Rangers are vigorously pursuing criminal cases against all criminals without any favouritism. To me he appeared logical and convincing.

Coming back to my favourite city, Karachi; there are different things which make Karachi the best city: –

  • One of the cheapest city
  • No one sleeps with an empty stomach
  • The city that never sleeps
  • The best places to eat
  • Best educational institutes
  • People with tender hearts and generous in giving charity. There are so many hotels feeding poor.

City is much safer and much less volatile now. Street crimes are common, but hardcore violence is quite rare now. With the arrival of Uber, the transportation scene has changed dramatically. You can either take a bus that will take you anywhere in the city for Rs. 40, or you can take an Uber car for a reasonably cheap price. Rickshaws are quickly losing ground, and will be extinct in the next 3 to 4 years. However, this city desperately needs a public railway setup. There are countless problems with the city’s garbage disposal, water supply and infrastructure. But when it comes to being able to purchase anything (and I mean anything), no Pakistani metropolis can beat Karachi. This city has jobs, commodities, universities, hospitals and industry like none other in Pakistan.

Law enforcing agencies especially Rangers are doing their best to keep security and law and order to allow this city to thrive as a Metropolitan, it used to be. Maligning these agencies is in fact at the cost of security and peace achieved with so many efforts and sacrifices.

Author hails from semi tribal areas of Pakistan and holds M Phil degree in International Relations

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