The MQM’s dilemma


Already downgraded, the threat in London looms large

It is now confirmed that Altaf Hussain is being investigated by the British police for money laundering and for involvement in public incitement – both considered serious crimes in Britain. The London Metropolitan Police has told the BBC that large hoards of money were recovered in two raids conducted at Altaf’s office in December 2012 and his home in June 2013. The cumulative figure found during the two raids amounts to £400,000. What is more, no satisfactory answer was provided by the MQM supremo with regards to where the stash came from and for what purpose.

The London police now is busy finding answers to these questions. The depression caused by the ongoing probe presumably forced the party chief to cancel a scheduled address to the faithful early this week.

The discovery raises a number of questions. Was the money legitimately acquired? If so what prompted the donors to hand over huge amounts of cash rather than the usual cheques? Why were hundreds of thousands of pounds thus collected not kept in a bank account as is the normal practice? If it was party fund, as has been hinted at but not clearly spelt out by the MQM leaders in Pakistan, was the amount mentioned in the assets statement provided to the Election Commission of Pakistan in March this year? Again if it was party fund, why was it kept in London instead of a bank in Pakistan? After all the party contests elections in Pakistan and not in Britain.

The likelihood of the investigation leading to prosecution cannot be ruled out.

With Altaf Hussain under investigation, the MQM is facing a situation altogether new to it.

Had the cases against Altaf been probed in Pakistan, the course to get them quashed was clear. The MQM would have told its followers that the cases were politically motivated and were in fact a conspiracy against the Mohajir community. It would have then taken recourse to a tested and tried course: announcing a series of crippling strikes in Karachi, causing loss to the national economy worth tens of millions of dollars every day, expecting that sooner than later the government would be brought down to its knees. .

In the UK, it is slightly more complex. The cases are being investigated by the Scotland Yard, which acts independently of the British government. So, protests won’t deter the London Police from pursuing the cases. In a kneejerk reaction the party put up a show of force in front of the 10 Downing Street last month carrying placards that read “Altaf Husain is an ambassador of Peace “. Later, it conducted a protest march in front of British Consulate in Karachi. The exercises failed to alter the situation by a whit. The investigation continued while the BBC reported it, supplying details so far unknown to the common man.

Last week Altaf Hussain maintained that the British establishment was plotting to eliminate him, a claim no rational being would buy. Altaf has enjoyed British hospitality for over two decades. During this time he applied for the British nationality and finally got it. He was helpful to his hosts, offering to provide secret information about the Pakistani militants to the British government, as detailed in a letter obtained by the BBC through the access to information law.

There is no ground therefore to establish malice on the part of the British administration. Several MQM activists subsequently applied for visas and are living happily since in the country of Altaf’s choice.

The claim – a conspiracy has been hatched against Altaf as he is opposed to feudal and the capitalist system – is farcical. Altaf has all along avoided taking part in British politics. He is not known as a firebrand campaigner against world capitalism. Those in Europe and North America who oppose the system are allowed to let off their steam as long as they do not resort to violence. Till Altaf was seen to be violating British laws the government of the host country had no beef with him.

Equally senseless is the claim that the British government is taking the action at the behest of pro-Taliban elements. The Tories are no less committed to fight against terrorism than the preceding Labour administration. The government has taken several measures to suppress militancy. Recently it expelled Abu Qarada after a legal battle that cost it more than £1.7 million. The British soldiers have fought against the Taliban for twelve years in Afghanistan. By April 30, 2013 the number of British soldiers killed had reached 444. To suggest that the government takes decision under the influence of pro-Taliban elements is grotesquely absurd.

Presently the MQM is fully concentrated on how to get Altaf Hussain out of the situation where he has landed himself. The party has found no solution. It fears that the worst is likely to be in store for its leader. Any agitation against Britain would be counter-productive. A resort to violence in Pakistan would further strengthen the charge of incitement to violence. The MQM faces a dilemma: it is damned if it resorts to its time tested tactics, and damned if it remains idle.

The supreme leader’s prolonged absence from the political scene could be the undoing of the MQM. The party depended entirely on Altaf Hussain for making policy decisions. Whether it was the issue of joining the PPP led coalition or the subsequent several goodbyes followed by rejoining the government, the final decision always came from London. Rehman Malik made a beeline to the British metropolis whenever relations with the MQM took a nosedive. With Altaf’s future uncertain the MQM is paralyzed.

The crisis comes at a time when the MQM faces serious challenge from other parties, particularly the PTI, in its conventional constituencies. Between 2008 and 2013, the MQM’s vote share in the provincial assembly elections in Karachi has gone down from 68 per cent to 59 per cent. The main factor in this sharp decline is the arrival of the PTI on Karachi’s electoral scene. The PTI candidates have given their opponents a run for their money in a majority of provincial and national assembly seats. Arif Alvi won the NA-250 while the PTI was the runner-up in 15 of the 16 constituencies it contested.

The party has turned down the offer to join the PPP government in Sindh. The PML-N has ignored MQM’s overtures to admit it into the ruling coalition. In case the MQM remains out of power for long, there are going to be rifts in the party as there are elements in it who for various reasons cannot afford to sit in the opposition.

Over the years, the MQM has lost its erstwhile monopoly over terror. It faces rivals now that include the TTP, the People’s Amn Committee and the Mohajir Qaumi Movement. Over time the MQM has been downgraded into the ‘first among the equals.’ Once out of power, it is likely to be marginalized in the toughs club of Karachi.

The writer is a political analyst and a former academic.


  1. Though all points raised in the article by Mr Aziz are valid and should be concern to MQM and Mr Altaf,but on my view real threat is if he( Mr Altaf) is ever dragged into murder investigation of Dr Imran Farioq.
    That’s the proverbial ” Sword of Damoceles”hanging over

  2. @columnist:
    "The cases are being investigated by the Scotland Yard, which acts independently of the British government." – will you stand on your above statement, if MQM's chief Altaf Hussain frees from all allegations [none of any cases have been charged] or you will call Altaf Hussain, a British agent after that?

  3. Sir, you used word "Presumably" and This Word describes your article best!__This case is under investigation ,MET is yet to even put charges.MQM and its leader stands firm and ready to fight the legal battle but you have already given your verdict.____ As a reader ,my humble advice is analyse the topic from all sides ,dont just compile allegations and assumption, for your readers.__Thanks.

  4. It’s not that Altaf Husain aka Altaf Bhai, hiding in the British thicket should not be sniffed out, but Dr Mirza playing the same old drama against Baray Bhai once again doesn’t gel. I agree Bhai, who was caught with stash of half a million pounds, collected as ‘extortion’ money from Karachi, should be prosecuted. What I apprehend is that he will get away yet again leaving the Brits agape. Bhai’s craftiness seeks no bounds.

  5. I am not an apologist for Altaf Hussain. If he has committed crimes, he must be punished. But the way British authorities are being projected is not correct. They are not angels. When their international interests demand, they can manipulate anything. We all know existence of WMDs was concocted by Bush and Blair but they move scot free. They have not been hanged out for all the blood, death and destruction which followed. In Altaf Hussain's case also, the British knew almost everything and if they did not know facts despite his remaining active there since 1992, then they are a nation of goofs no better than us who did not know Osama was living in Pakistan for nine years!!! There seems to be some game going on and if the British are able to grind their axe, Altaf Hussain will be innocent.

  6. You article is bigotic and you appear to be a bigot. Read the books of history of Dr.Ishwari Prasad to understand what the British have done to this subcontinent and its populace. Come out of your self made shell, read, study, research and analyze then write.

  7. There is no point in saying much for Altaf Hussain His cases are under investigation and surely there is sufficient evidence to hook him Murder of his mate Dr. Imran Farooq is too much for him If he is found guilty MQM as a party will be finished There is already going to be lot of split in the party because in Karachi there are very good and law abiding members in MQM but with the Altaf being under the sword there is nothing left and his party members will join PTI Days of Altaf Hussain are numbered He is not going to leave much to be proud of his leadership for MQM The way he carried on was a brutal act and must face the charges which will come into being Wednesday I hope

  8. So nice to read the article that is full of knowledge and reflects as the writer is a keen observer and has a mastery in describing the facts that attracts the readers and provide full information

  9. This leader for peace with £400000in his back pocket must be prosecuted according to the law of the land .

  10. My ears thank London police for putting an end to Altaf Hussain's daily telephone speeches on tv.

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