… for a very costly ‘reconciliation’ policy
The attack on a peaceful march convened by Awami Tehrik and People’s Amn Committee in Karachi puts the MQM and its allies in the dock. There were some who had hoped that after the Mohajir Qaumi Movement rechristened itself to Muttahida Qaumi Movement, it would join mainstream politics and shun violence. They were proved wrong when the party again caused the May 12 bloodbath in Karachi in 2007. The barbarous killing of innocent people belonging to all provinces gave birth to a strong resentment against the party all over the country.
As WikiLeaks revealed, a diplomatic cable sent from Karachi to Washington on May 17, 2007 contained details of a 40-minute telephonic conversation between MQM leader Dr Sattar and Charge d’affaires US Consulate Peter Boday. During the conversation, Sattar admitted that certain members of his party were involved in the May 12 incident and the party should consider unarming its militant wing.
The PPP’s opportunism brought the MQM out of isolation once again. Its presence in the ruling alliance has failed to curb its violent tendencies. During over four years of the MQM being a part of the government, its name continued to figure high in cases of targeted killing and extortion. The report of the Joint Investigation Team formed by the Sindh Government revealed the gory details of the killings undertaken by a number of its party activists led by Ajmal Pahari.
On July 12, 2011, the media reported the overnight appearance of graffiti on the walls of Karachi demanding a bifurcation of Sindh. The wall chalking was conducted in areas of the city which were mostly MQM strongholds. This led to a strong reaction in Sindh. The issue popped up in the Sindh Assembly where a unanimous resolution was passed affirming support for the historical entity of Sindh. Significantly, the MQM MPAs declined to sign the resolution.
Towards the middle of 2012, there was yet another spurt of appearances of graffiti and circulation of pamphlets demanding a separate province in Sindh. These, again, did not carry the name of any sponsoring organisation. It was around this time when a number of former MQM ministers and parliamentarians held a press conference in New York demanding the division of Sindh.
On May 15, a few dozen women carrying placards marched all the way to the press club chanting slogans for a Mohajir province. “Cities for us, Jungles for them” was one of the slogans. The demonstration led to a prolonged traffic jam on I I Chundrigar Road after M R Kayani Road was closed down as it passed through the Red Zone unhindered.
It is interesting to hear how the MQM and PPP leaders have tried to explain away the firing on the march led by Awami Tehrik and PAC. Why did the marchers not take permission, they asked? Why were outsiders creating hatred in Karachi, they questioned? Why did the organisers not take into account that the city was passing through delicate circumstances? The pro-Mohajir Suba procession had taken no permission and nobody had fired at them despite Karachi facing the so-called delicate situation. Nobody had blamed the organisers nor cast doubts on their intentions. It was the duty of the administration to provide security to the marchers demanding the unity of Sindh as it had done to those demanding the carving out of a Mohajir province.
Rehman Malik sounds irrational when he maintains that anti-social elements had been brought from the interior of Sindh by the AT and PAC. Supposing this was the case, why did they choose to target their own people and spare the supporters of the Mohajir Suba? Instead of tracing out the culprits, Malik has advised the Sindh government to get a case registered against AT President Ayaz Latif Palijo.
The demand for a Mohajir province is unnatural. People belonging to a region left under-developed often demand a separate province. This explains the demand for a Seraiki Suba. But the opposite is the case in Sindh. While people in ignored districts of Sindh oppose the bifurcation of Sindh, a party claiming to represent the richest city of the country wants a separate province. Karachi is in no way deprived or under-developed. It is adequately, if not overly, represented in the civil service and the armed forces.
PPP’s policy of unprincipled reconciliation with all is responsible for the misrule and the bloodshed that has occurred in Sindh during the last four years. The policy is meant to keep the party in power irrespective of the cost for the people of Sindh. The PPP leadership allows the MQM to do whatever it wants in the province in return for support to the PPP government at the centre.
In Balochistan, the PPP has entered into a similar understanding with the security agencies which have been given a free hand. The result: forced disappearances, stories of torture and dead bodies thrown on the wayside.
That the phenomenon is being witnessed now in Sindh also should be highly worrisome for anyone who wants a united, stable and prosperous Pakistan.
HRCP has been able to verify at least 41 cases of forced disappearance in interior Sindh since November 2010. Out of these, 26 people have been traced or released, but another 14 remain missing. Fifteen of these missing individuals were mainly political activists from Badin, of which nine have been released and six remain missing. The body of Muzaffar Bhutto, secretary general of Jiye Sindh Muttahida Mahaz (JSMM), who went missing in February 2011, has been found near Hyderabad. Thanks to the PPP’s policy of reconciliation with all, Sindh lives under a double whammy now
The writer is a former academic and a political analyst.