The Khan’s Waterloo


And MQM’s vindication?

Despite the hype, the PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) met its Waterloo at the hands of the ubiquitous MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) in NA 246 by-elections. The Karachi constituency lies at the heart of MQM’s core support. Hence, in any case, it would have been a formidable task for any challenger to dismantle the lion from its traditional lair.

The results speak for themselves. The MQM, that years ago changed its nomenclature from ‘Muhajir’ to ‘Muttahida’, essentially remains an ethnic outfit. Its successful candidate Kanwar Naveed Jamil, by securing more than 90,000 votes, amply demonstrated the party’s firm grip on politics in Karachi.

The Khan, despite tall claims to the contrary, miserably failed to dent MQM’s core support. Similarly media pundits, asserting that owing to the ongoing Karachi operation the MQM is on the ropes and its brand inexorably damaged, proved to be way off the mark.

The stakes for MQM were pretty high. Already on the run, if it had lost to the PTI or Jamaat-e-Islami it would have been curtains for the party.

In the end analysis, the death row prisoner and former MQM thug Saulat Mirza’s highly damaging testimony about the party being involved in murder and extortion and the Karachi operation itself did not dent the party’s core support. Nor did it benefit PTI’s candidate Imran Ismail, who was unable to cross the 30,000 votes benchmark set by the PTI itself.

The MQM understandably is portraying its victory as vindication of its policies and a reiteration of its political relevance. According to the party’s supremo Altaf Hussain, Kanwar Naveed’s victory has washed away all accusations hurled against the MQM.

Perhaps the decision-making process in the party is deeply flawed? Either there are too many cooks or there is none except him

Altaf Hussain is right to the extent that the formula of ‘minus MQM’ will simply not work. Nonetheless, if the MQM assumes that victory at the by-elections somehow absolves the party of the crimes committed in its name, it will be extremely naive on its part.

The party chief, instead of cleansing the outfit of extortionists and criminals, justifies the presence of thugs in its fold by saying that all political parties including the ruling PML-N have militant wings. But the fact of the matter is that the kind of havoc they have wreaked in Karachi is unparalleled.

The MQM, thanks largely to its adept media manipulation, has been largely successful in creating the impression that it is being victimised and singled out by the LEAs (law enforcement agencies). The victim syndrome has helped it tremendously in galvanising its core political support.

According to reliable estimates about 700 operations have been carried out against TTP since October 2013 in Karachi alone. During the same period the Rangers conducted 200 operations against the so-called proscribed organisations and 600 operations against the ostensibly pro-PPP Lyari gang.

The MQM is third in the pecking order. However, since it is the most high-profile party in Karachi that makes more noise than others, it has been successfully created the perception of being singled out.

Hopefully, the MQM will learn the right lessons from its thumping victory by making concerted efforts to get rid of criminal elements from its folds. Admittedly, it will be a formidable task as it is almost impossible to draw a line between its political and criminal wings.

The Rangers operation in the megapolis, probe in the Baldia Town arson and Altaf Hussain’s legal troubles in London will not simply go away as a result of NA 246. On the flip side, however, these elections have proved beyond doubt that the MQM represents a solid political constituency that cannot be destroyed by mere administrative measures.

In fact such measures have strengthened the resolve of its core supporters. Hence not only the MQM but also those who have adopted a single dimensional approach towards restoring peace in Karachi need to revisit their strategy.

The results in NA 246 are also a reality check for Imran Khan and his supporters. Instead of just harping on the singular theme that the 2013 General Elections were stolen from them, they need to revisit their overall approach towards politicking.

The Khan assumes, albeit mistakenly, that he is the best thing that has happened to Pakistan. He believes that the rest of the political lot are all crooks and he is the promised messiah who will extricate the nation from its present abyss.

As has been amply demonstrated by the results of NA 246, his jaundiced approach towards politics is simply not working. Since the dharna in August last year it has been downhill for him.

At the height of his putsch against Nawaz Sharif the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif was willing to broker a deal sans the demand for the prime minister’s resignation. But the PTI chief would not relent.

The stakes for MQM were pretty high. Already on the run, if it had lost to the PTI or Jamaat-e-Islami it would have been curtains for the party

The decision that all PTI members should quit from the national and provincial assemblies also boomeranged on him. His party stalwarts, despite resigning, remained overtly keen to return to the assemblies. The Khan reluctantly had to use the Yemen crisis as a pretext to return.

Similarly, making NA 246 as the be all and the end all was a mistake. Khan sahib’s tactic of using the occasion to catapult his new bride softly into politics simply did not work. After bitterly critiquing his opponents of bringing their families in politics he did exactly the same.

Perhaps the decision-making process in the party is deeply flawed? Either there are too many cooks or there is none except him.

It seems far-reaching decisions are taken without proper introspecting, thus missing the woods for the trees. Hopefully the party will draw the right lessons from its defeat in Karachi.

This defeat should be a reality check as it will be next to impossible to pin the poor showing of Imran Ismail on flawed elections or bogus voting. The party’s Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi claims with a straight face that Nawaz Sharif is a trader, and not a politician.

Shah Sahib, who himself was finance minster in Punjab under Sharif, should not lose sight of the fact that the PML-N is in power for the third time at the federal level and for the fifth time in Punjab. Politically, they must be doing something right rather than be dismissed as shopkeepers by a ‘pir’ and a feudal.

The Khan should smell the coffee beans and revisit his present approach based more on his star value rather than political realities. He also needs to revamp his team. Mostly hanger-ons and only a sprinkling of political strategists surround him.

As things are moving in the judicial commission to probe the 2013 elections, more disappointments are in store for the PTI. It is going to be a formidable task for its lead counsel Abdul Hafiz Pirzada to prove that these general elections were rigged as part of a grand conspiracy.


  1. good analysis but maximum number MQM workers were arrested and send to torture cell under PPO…Uzair Baloach was allowed to escape,,,Zulfikar Mirza freely moving where as he was involved in killing of Urdu speaking in famous shershah kabari market killing in 2010…not a single killer arrested so far

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