The MQM’s Waterloo?


The periodic curse of Karachi returned again last week to claim a heavy toll of mostly the innocent. The violence was reportedly sparked this time by the killing of an ANP worker and quickly spread to various parts of the city, especially the now notorious Katti Pahari.

The claims are divergent, with both the ANP and the MQM declaring that victims belonging to their respective ethnic background were greater in number. That though should not be the only point of conjecture.

The reign of terror, and blood and death, was spread over four days before the Rangers were called in and peace restored in a mere half hour.

Why were the Rangers not deployed before then, when the death toll was mounting and being telecast live every minute of the day to boot? Why was the chief minister so hesitant? Why was the farcical Rehman Malik, involved in politicking but showing little intent to bring the killing spree to a swift end?

The painfully prolonged ordeal and the Sindh government’s indifference and apathy indeed are a slur on the PPP regime in this particular cycle of violence. And this cannot be explained away either by those most sympathetic to the PPP or by those who believe that the PPP and other political entities’ desire to regain ceded space to the MQM in Karachi are legitimate.

That said, the Karachi and Sindh-specific PPP stratagems of the last week make it obvious that its endeavour to woo the MQM back onboard have finally been discarded – for good, or at least for the remaining part of the current dispensation’s tenure.

The raucous verbal slugfest that preceded and followed the reintroduction of the commissionerate system and re-dividing the mega city in five parts in the guise of reforming the administrative structure, luring of the Functional League into the fold and its courting Jamaat-e-Islami and Afaq Ahmed of the lately somewhat irrelevant Haqiqi brand of MQM are all indicative of that.(Languishing in jail for the last seven years when the MQM was resurgent, and till now a nonentity, his meetings with the fire-breathing Zulfiqar Mirza, could also be the harbinger of a new role for him: that of creating a split in the MQM vote by reinvigorating the Haqiqi.)

Whether bringing back the bureaucracy would result in any reform or some semblance of good governance in a city that has developed a penchant for periodic fits of violence and where criminal mafias of all hues are flourishing is moot – especially in the milieu where the civil service’s ability to deliver is so obviously at its most abject. The ANP (Shahi Syed’s endorsement of this on one TV channel was indeed emphatic), though certainly believes it’s a change for the better.

By walking out of the Sindh government, the MQM had thrown the PPP the gauntlet.

Reintroducing the commissionerate system and the simultaneous political wheeling dealing that the PPP is engaged in, point towards the fact that the gauntlet has not just been picked up but for good measure thrown back in its face.

Splitting the city in five parts, with the commissioner in supervision, also puts paid to the MQM’s burning desire to lord over the city – with its attendant prestige, patronage and pelf accruing it political clout and benefit. What is more, and this is where in the MQM’s case the shoe pinches the most, this may have been done with the intent to make it a permanent arrangement – with the city remaining bifurcated even when the local bodies system is reintroduced. This is anathema to the MQM, for it would pave the way for the PPP – which has support across the electorate – to corner a Nazimate or two, and also open up the possibility of probably one of the five where Pashtuns predominate to go to the ANP.

This is not the only red rag that the MQM sees. After the break, all the recent actions of the PPP seem to be geared towards one goal: reversing the arbitrary gerrymandering that the MQM had liberally indulged in courtesy ‘the Mohajir General/President’ to ensure that it held sway over vast swathes of Karachi, Hyderabad and to a lesser extent Sukkur and Larkana.

The PPP had issues with the MQM strong-arm tactics during the 2008 elections that extended its monopoly over the city but it remained a partner out of expediency of the larger objective of forming coalitions that led to a stable government in the centre. No longer encumbered with the considerations of keeping a tenuous coalition intact and the tenure of the government on the proverbial home stretch, the timing could not have been more opportune for the PPP.

Also Zardari is wily enough to realise that taking on the MQM and overturning the unjust manipulation in the electoral areas by a military dictator would have broader political support, for the Jamaat-e-Islami and the ANP could also benefit from it.

For the moment it seems that the PPP co-chairman has achieved the impossible – stymieing the MQM on its home turn and by a gentle, technical knockout, too.

But will the MQM watch passively as its long hold on power is wrested from its grasp?

What will the backlash bring, one wonders?


The writer is Sports and Magazines Editor, Pakistan Today.



  1. Good observations. Hope MQM and its leader ship rise above the patty politics of Black mail extortion and holding governments hostage to its demands , the people of Sind,Punjab,Khyber puktun kawa, Blouhistan i.e all comunities of various ethnic backgrounds residing there have now relised that what MQM really stands for.
    Since its coming into national politics it has not taken any positive approach with its colation partners, apart from during General Musharaf's time and its main benificery and God father General Zia ul Haq. Its a shame, however the majority of good people within MQM should not let few bad people present the whole Urdu speaking/ Muhajir comunity.Who are as Patriotic and honurable as all the other People of Pakistan.

  2. The curse of violence will keep visiting Karachi. Rest assured. MQM is not such a party which could remain calm for than two weeks. It becomes manifestly violent as soon as it comes out of the government benches.
    Zulfiqar Mirza's diatribe against mohajir and MQM supremo were just an excuse to show iMQM's street power. It was quite evident that MQM was left sulking away after the passage of bills in Sindh Assembly restoring old commissionerate system but idiotic remarks of Zulfiqar Mirza provided it godsend opportunity to foment trouble and it did resulting in loss of more than 10 lives. This is the sort of thing MQM was eager to show to the county to prove that it is all mighty in Karachi. The electronic media's role was utterly disgusting. These so called independent channel did not waste a moment to play a role of mouthpiece of MQM. The live chat programmes on the field were disgusting and provocative.

    I would be inclined to agree with the author of this article that the government failed to provide security as soon as MQM thugs started firing and damaging vehicles. By the time they took action 10 persons were killed. It is disgusting to see glee on faces of MQM leaders when seen on chat programmes and behaving as if they have conquered the battle.

    Unfortunately the mindset of MQM is such that violence forms an integral part of it. The media is a willing partner. Zulfiqar Mirza's words were just an excuse and frankly whatever words he used for Altaf Hussain are absolutely true.

  3. The MQM is as much to blame for what happened in Karachi as was the PPP, ANP and other hoodlums. God Forbid Altaf Hussain is not a prophet, who cannot be criticised. He is just another politician having the same or more weaknesses as other political leadrs including AZ, NS, Wali, Ch Shuj, Maulana Diesel etc.

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