Pot, kettle etc


Last week, I was forced to realise on more than one occasion that politicos in Pakistan suffer from some sort of amnesia. Either that, or they have a weird affinity for, ahem, cattle excreta. No, this is not a joke. Consider the following examples. A leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), for instance, went on air a few days ago to boldly proclaim that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was entirely to blame for the weaponisation of Karachi. I heard this, and my first thoughts were, “Hang on a second, that’s not entirely true, is it?” Because if it were, what’s this ‘Thunder Squad’ that one keeps hearing about? Even more amazingly, only a few days before JI Leader saheb’s grand proclamation, a court in Bangladesh had hauled up a local JI leader for 1971 war crimes. So here’s how my reasoning went (and JI Leader saheb is welcome to correct me if I’m wrong): throughout the bloody period that led to the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, the JI leadership (from both, East and West Pakistan) had decided to be party to an anti-people state’s atrocities. How did they do that? By sending in the party’s militant wing, popularly known as the Thunder Squad, into what was then East Pakistan to commit what we refer to in civilised societies as ‘war crimes’.
In essence, the indictment in Bangladesh of a local JI leader for 1971 war crimes is also an indictment of the JI as a whole for said crimes, because when the accused committed these atrocities, he was part of a unified party. The same party whose leadership is now accusing the MQM, which didn’t come into being until much later, of ‘initiating’ the weaponisation and ‘introducing’ the concept of forming militant wings for political parties. Now to set the record straight: the politics of violence, weaponisation and militant wings was introduced in the educational campuses of Karachi by the Jamaat-e-Islami, through its students’ wing, the Islami Jamiat-e-Tulaba (IJT) and the much-feared Thunder Squad, to counter, among other things, the rising popularity of the left-wing National Students Federation (NSF). Avowedly secular and comprised primarily of non-militant intellectuals, the latter looked around for help and lo and behold, saw Altaf Hussain and his All-Pakistan Muhajir Students Organisation (APMSO), which later evolved into the Muhajir Qaumi Movement and then the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
According to some sources, the APMSO was given its first weapons by the NSF, which got it through USSR contacts. According to others, however, the first batch of weapons was handed over to the APMSO by the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) on the instructions of G M Syed himself, who had, at the time, referred to Hussain as his ‘seyasi beyta’ (political protege). Regardless of where the weapons came from, however, the important point to note here is that the APMSO was armed with the help of the progressive left to counter the JI’s use of muscle. How, then, Mr JI Leader saheb, did you get history so wrong during your recent television proclamation? Did you forget? Or was it a deliberate attempt at distorting the history of your party? I would have chuckled and shut up, though, if these attempts at revisionist history had stopped with the JI. Unfortunately, it didn’t. Next, it was the turn of stalwarts of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, them of zero seats in Karachi, to bemoan militant wings of political parties. While doing this, they, of course, forgot entirely the fact that prominent members of the PML(N) have been known to cavort with leaders of supposedly banned groups. Too bad, they got their pictures taken with Sipah-e-Sahaba activists as the latter helped the PML(N) leaders concerned canvas for votes during elections.
You get the picture, right? And no, I’m not talking about pictures of public displays of affection of PML(N) and their associates, etc. See, the point of this piece is not to exonerate the MQM. As the daughter of first-generation immigrants, and, as such, a member of the ‘Urdu-speaking community’ in Karachi – the same group that the MQM is supposed to represent politically – I have a myriad of serious grievances against the MQM. I abhor the party’s propensity for the politics of violence; I can’t stand the venom that many in its ranks spew against working class Pakhtuns of Karachi; then there’s 12 May 2007, etc. The list is long, and I’ve written about it earlier often enough. The point is, there are many issues over which the MQM can be berated. Let’s stick to those, and stop assuming that people have forgotten recent history. The pot calling the kettle black isn’t the best way of going about a discussion, politically, nor does doing so augur well for the pot’s credibility. The writer is a freelance journalist and researcher based in Karachi. She can be reached via Twitter (@UroojZia) or email (contact AT uroojzia.com)


  1. How quickly the "political parties" forget. The whole blame game must cease and let the political parties work towards how we can can rid of this so-called weaponisation of Karachi. At this point it doesn't matter who started it; but it will matter when someone ends it.

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