MQM’s Empowerment by Gen Musharraf
By Asif Haroon Raja
After the mysterious death of Gen Ziaul Haq in a plane crash on August 17, 1988, the era of unstable democratic era commenced in which PPP and PML-N took turns. None could complete the mandated five years and each tenure ranged from two to two-and-half years. President Ghulam Ishaq and President Laghari used the axe of Article 58-2B, handed over to them by Gen Zia to fell the governments on charges of corruption and inefficiency. In his second tenure starting February 1997, Nawaz Sharif with a heavy mandate and removal of Article 58-2B felt quite secured, but he strained his relations with his handpicked Army chief Gen Musharraf because of Kargil conflict in summer of 1999, which Musharraf had launched without his knowledge. Element of distrust between the two kept growing with every passing week.
A team of Generals mounted a coup on the evening of October 12, 1999 when Gen Mush was on his way back home from his official trip to Colombo and Nawaz had sacked him and appointed DG ISI Gen Ziauddin Butt as his replacement at about 5 pm. By the time he managed to land back at Karachi, the coup makers had arrested Nawaz and taken over the control. Sweets were distributed by the PPP leaders and workers as well as other political parties in opposition to celebrate the demise of elected government at the hands of the military. They had got fed up of the autocratic style of Nawaz but didn’t have political power to oust him and hence welcomed the military takeover. Benazir Bhutto in exile extended cooperation to the coup makers particularly because of the fact that all the generals were not on board and some were critical of Musharraf.
Gen Mush remained at the helm of affairs for almost nine years during which he did some good things but also committed mistakes for which he and Pakistan had to pay the price. With the help of technocrats he pursued his 7-point agenda but he suffered from legitimacy bug. 9/11 came as a blessing in disguise for him but not for Pakistan. He became the darling of the West and the US helped him in improving the economy and in carrying out development works, but in return Pakistan had to gradually lose its sovereignty, security and dignity. War on terror was a ruse to destabilize, denuclearize and balkanize Pakistan.
After the controversial presidential election, Mush created a King’s party comprising of turncoats from PML-N, PPP and other parties in 2002, who were won over through inducement and coercion. He went out of the way to strengthen the MQM in Sindh which at that time was in wilderness. Right from the day of its birth, the MQM under Altaf Hussain had pursued policy of fascism and violence in order to gain control over the port city of Karachi. By introducing the cultures of sack filled dead bodies, extortion, kidnappings, torture and no-go areas, it had plunged the city of lights into darkness. It gained votes with the power of gun and in 1988 elections became the leading party in Karachi and Hyderabad and also gained a toehold in the federal government. It gained so much of monopoly over Karachi that it could bring it to a standstill by giving a call for strike. Anyone defying the orders was killed or put in torture cell. It resorted to blackmailing tactics to fulfill its mostly illegal demands. In order to hide its sins, it would keep grieving over its so-called socio-politico-economic grievances and playing the card of victimization of Mohajirs. The Mohajirs were terrorized and brainwashed that their identity and survival lay in blind obedience to Altaf.
It was owing to fascist and criminal activities of the MQM and making state-within-state in Karachi that both PML-N and PPP had to launch operations in Karachi in 1992 and 1995 and impose governor rule in 1998 after the murder of Hakim Saeed. Each time, the MQM leaders had gone underground. Altaf had gone in exile in 1992 and is since then leading a luxurious life in London where he has opened an international secretariat. All the exiled members of the secretariat have hired flats in posh locality of London and living a lord’s life. Their expenses are met by Rabita Committee and Khidmat Khalq Foundation after collecting money through extortion, and variety of illegal means. The MQM has been maintaining a connection with RAW since 1989 and receiving heavy funds as well as arms and explosives for carrying out subversive activities in Karachi. It has been gradually expanding its influence in all the urban centres of Sindh right up to Sukhar and had future plans to become a national party after it won seats on Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK Assemblies.
It is not possible that our intelligence agencies remained unaware of MQM’s linkage with RAW and training of its militants at Dera Dhun camp in India. When Operation Cleanup was launched in June 1992, several leaders of MQM like Javed Langra had fled to India. According to former IG Sindh Shuaib Suddle, Sindh government had gathered sufficient evidence of this connection during 1995-96 operation. MQM’s alternative base of operation opened up in South Africa in 1996 was also in the knowledge of state authorities. It is now learnt that Thailand and London were also used as bases to destabilse Karachi. We still remember Altaf’s letter written to Tony Blair in 2001 offering full support in the war on terror. His anti-Pakistan speech made in New Delhi in 2003 is also on record. What is befuddling is that despite the MQM’s nefarious activities, why both PML-N and PPP vied to make it a coalition partner both in Sindh and at the centre?
Pakistan had gone through traumatic experience in 1971 when Mujibur Rahman led Awami League had started a province wide rebellion with the help of Indian military, and RAW had played a key role in subverting the minds of Bengalis and in creation of Mukti Bahinis. It was also known that since 1973, RAW had got involved in Sindh to subvert the minds of old Sindhis and later new Sindhis to create rural-urban divide. It had also come to light that many among the MQM were toying with the idea of Jinnahpur and maps had been found during 1992 operation. The two operations in 1990s were abandoned half way due to lack of political will, but still had helped in blunting the dangerous designs of the MQM.
Well knowing the track record of the MQM, Gen Mush chose to rehabilitate the MQM which was in disarray and to fortify it by meeting all its demands. He agreed to appoint Ishratul Ibad as Governor Sindh after quashing all the criminal cases against him, cleansing 8000 MQM criminals involved in heinous crimes through the dry cleaning machine of NRO, pulverizing MQM Haqiqi, a breakaway faction of MQM, and releasing 35 dangerous criminals, each involved in 70 different cases and convicted by the courts. Local bodies framework evolved by Mush to transfer power at the grassroots levels benefited MQM the most. By manipulating the constituencies, the MQM doubled its vote bank in 2008 elections and made it difficult for the PPP to discount its nuisance value in Karachi. PPP backtracked from the pledge taken by all political parties in the APDM in 2007 that MQM will not be made a coalition partner in future and both sailed together for next 5 years. During this black rule, the MQM militants resorted to target killings with a vengeance and killed well over 5000 innocent people. Not a single culprit was caught and punished.
Gen Mush’s authority was challenged by former Chief Justice (CJ) Iftikhar Ch in March 2007 after he was given a marching order. The lawyers rallied behind him and soon the civil society as well as other political parties joined the caravan to restore the CJ. The huge caravan from Isbd to Lahore unnerved Musharraf. According to ex CM Punjab Pervez Elahi, he was told by Mush to disrupt the caravan between Kharian and Gujarat by firing at it but he refused. When the CJ along with leading lights of legal fraternity proceeded to Karachi to address Sindh Bar Council on May 12, 2007, MQM was instructed to stop him from moving out of the premises of Karachi airport. When MQM leaders started hurling threats, the Sindh based political parties and lawyers rallied together to accord rousing welcome to the CJ. To counter them, the MQM took out its own rally which was duly approved by the then CM Sindh Rahim and Home Minister Waseem Akhtar, well knowing that it could lead to an open clash. Port & Shipping Minister Babar Ghauri barricaded the route by placing containers. The Rangers and the Police were told to look the other way. When the peaceful rally of PPP-ANP-PTI-other parties moved towards the airport, it was fired upon indiscriminately resulting in deaths of over 50 and injuries to many. The MQM flashed victory signs when the CJ returned to Isbd without addressing the Bar Council.
That evening, Gen Mush addressed a public meeting at Liaqatabad in Pindi, arranged by Pervez Ellahi. Feeling excited, he raised his clenched fists and said his political power had triumphed. He then made sure that no inquest was held to probe the loss of so many lives. To cover up the crime, the MQM claimed that several of its workers had also been killed. When the lawyers pressed the case in the Sindh High Court, the court building was besieged by the MQM goons and later on, two of the prosecuting lawyers were murdered. On April 9, five lawyers were burnt to death in their offices to stop them from pursuing the May 12 case. Even then, no inquiry was ordered by the provincial or federal government. Gen Mush after vacating the seat of president in August 2008 went in exile in 2009 but retuned in 2013 to take part in general elections. Besides debarring from elections, several cases were opened up including case of treason. He was allowed to proceed to Dubai for medical treatment last year, but he has not returned to face court cases. Law court has ordered seizure of his bank accounts and property in Pakistan.
During the Rangers operation in 2014, MQM sector in-charge Malir Halt, Rauf was arrested. He revealed that he and his team were involved in the May 12 killings and that he had prepared the firing sites and dumped weapons and ammunition before the D-Day. The elected Mayor of Karachi Waseem Akhtar who has recently been arrested on the charges of getting terrorists treated in Ziauddin hospital and his linkage with RAW has confessed that he had ordered firing on the rally on May 12, 2007. This case if pursued will also implicate Gen Mush.
During the ongoing Rangers operation in Karachi, large numbers of MQM target killers, kidnappers and extortionists have been nabbed. From September 2013 till July 27, 2016, Rangers conducted 7950 operations in Karachi. It handed over 6361 suspects to the police and 221 to FIA. Among them were 1236 terrorists, 848 target killers, 403 extortionists and 143 kidnappers. 1158 were released without registration of FIR, and 313 set free on bail. Only 188 were convicted but none punished. This is indeed a very poor state and the reason is politicization and corruption of investigating officers, weakness of prosecutors and judges, and terrorization of witnesses. These anomalies need to be rectified by Sindh government at the earliest to make the Rangers operation result oriented.
Altaf intends to once again play up the card of victimization of Mohajirs by the Rangers in USA this month since for the first time all political parties have got fed up of MQM fascist policies and blackmailing tactics and view it as a terrorist and anti-state organization and not a political party. This impression has gained strength after collection of tons of evidence by intelligence and law enforcement agencies and the proofs of MQM-RAW connectivity given by Mustafa Kamal led new Party Pak Sar Zameen (PSZ), born out of the womb of MQM. The MQM’s power has been decisively cut to size and it no more has the capacity to bounce back as it had been doing in the past. The only hope it has is that the PPP under new Sindh CM Murad Ali Shah, which itself is in extremely difficult situation, agrees to cozy up and bail it out.
MQM-PPP marriage of convenience will prove disastrous for Sindh and may hasten the imposition of Governor Rule. The other possibility is that the PML-N gives in to political expediency and agree to adopt a soft approach. This option is not viable since Gen Raheel will never let the gains made by Rangers go waste. He is determined to take the operation to its logical end before he hangs his boots in November this year. PSZ is repeatedly urging the government to ban the MQM after declaring it a terrorist outfit linked with RAW. The public is also expecting a similar verdict. The lone option for the MQM to survive as a political entity is to part company with Altaf who has become a big liability, find a new leader who is unsoiled, thoroughly overhaul the party by purging the bad hats, eliminate its militant wing, sever ties with RAW and pledge to function as a political party.
Although PSZ has posed a big challenge to MQM monopoly in Karachi, however, it doesn’t seem a feasible alternative since all its members are ex MQM with hands drenched in human blood. Both MQM and PSZ will have to induct new and clean faces to become credible. After the arrest of Qaimkhani along with Waseem on similar charge, who is also associated with horrifying Baldia Town factory case, in which 289 people were burnt alive, the PSZ is resorting to MQM’s bullying tactics to pressurize the government to release him.
The PPP rule in Sindh is in dire crisis since the Rangers have tightened the noose around the necks of defaulters of PPP. Zardari and several top leaders of PPP are in hiding in Dubai and Zardari is remote controlling Sindh from there. Feeling cornered, ex CM Qaim Ali Shah dilly dallied over granting extension to the Rangers in their special anti-terror powers, which expired on 19 July. He said that Rangers have no business to deal with corruption cases, not realizing that crime, terrorism, corruption and politics have got intermixed in Sindh and cancer of corruption is the root cause of terrorism. He also stated that Rangers should confine their operations to Karachi only and failed to comprehend that the terrorists and criminals once trapped escaped to interior Sindh from where they crossed over either into Baluchistan or southern Punjab. His successor Murad has signed the notification of extension on the evening of July 30 after another incident of killing of a Rangers soldier occurred in Larkana.
For the PPP, the only way to re-establish itself as a national party and become viable in 2018 elections is to do away with dynastic politics, get rid of perverse influence of Zardari, let go its habit of corruption, carryout in-house cleansing, improve governance, depoliticize the police and civil administration, carry out reforms in judiciary and criminal investigation system, curb Wadera Shahi (feudalism), strengthen middle class, facilitate the Rangers to catch the big fish rather than protecting them, and work with sincerity to improve the conditions of the poor.
The writer is retired Brig, war veteran, defence and security analyst, columnist, author of five books, Director Measac Research Centre, Director Board of Governors Thinkers Forum Pakistan, member Executive Council Ex Servicemen Society, and member Executive Council Tehreek Jawanan Pakistan. He takes part in TV talk shows and delivers talks. firstname.lastname@example.org