Waiting for the fabled man on horseback
The MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) is in the dock and by some accounts the PPP is soon to follow. Asif Zardari and his scion Bilawal left for Dubai on a one-way trip, it was claimed. At least so went the narrative of those who were overly excited about unravelling of the ‘corrupt system’. Yet Bilawal is back amid rumours that his father will follow shortly.
Many amongst the commentarati, including some very prominent media hounds, smell blood. They want General Raheel Sharif to move and send the ‘bloody civvies’ packing.
They remind me of the late octogenarian politician Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan, a highly respected political figure who was very adept at alliance-making. Ch Shujaat Hussain tries to emulate him without commanding the same kind of across-the-board respect.
The Nawabzada was always busy fomenting alliances against military dictatorships. However, when democracy (or its semblance) was restored, he would leave no stone unturned to send the democratic system packing — even if that meant sleeping with the enemy.
Similarly, many amongst the intelligentsia fed up with the shenanigans of the politicians are looking towards the promised messiah in the form of the fabled man on horseback. In the words of Urdu’s classical poet Mir Taqi Mir: “Mir kaya saada hain, beemar hooey jis kay sabab; Usi attar kay londay se dawa late hain”.
According to the fresh narrative being peddled 24/7 through the electronic and social media, a massive operation to nab corrupt politicians and bureaucrats is on the anvil
According to the fresh narrative being peddled 24/7 through the electronic and social media, a massive operation to nab corrupt politicians and bureaucrats is on the anvil. That is why all the ‘corrupt elements’ are running helter skelter, getting bails before arrest or decamping to safe havens abroad.
So far as Zardari and his cohorts are concerned, he does not seem quite ready to throw in the towel. His recent outburst against the generals shows that he will go down fighting if push comes to shove. According to some well-placed PPP sources he was en route to the US for a medical checkup, but post rumour mills working overtime he is returning to Pakistan soon.
Ironically, Imran Khan on his return from a sojourn to London to meet his sons and daughter has declared that people should not elect politicians who have interests abroad. Certainly walking the talk the Khan should persuade his progenies to settle in Pakistan, close to him and his heart.
As regards MQM, the gauntlet has been again thrown down at it. This is not the first time that the essentially ethnic outfit has faced a surge of allegations ranging from money laundering, murder and extortion, to being an Indian agent.
The party hitherto has been able to weather the storms, despite the fact that the MQM supremo Altaf Hussain is ensconced in London since his self-imposed exile in 1992. But this time it seems the ubiquitous establishment means business.
After all it should shoulder a modicum of responsibility for creating and nurturing a hydra headed monster. Having no qualms, the party has used all the dirty tricks under the table to maintain its iron hold on urban Sindh.
Interestingly, the Sharif government has adopted a fresh modus operandi to move against alleged criminals. It is now a familiar pattern to leak vital albeit incriminating information to a foreign correspondent working for a reputable international media organisation. And based on the evidence proceed against those alleged to be guilty.
Last month Axact, the giant Karachi based software company ostensibly dealing in fake degrees, was exposed through a report filed by Declan Walsh, the London based Pakistan correspondent of the New York Times. After the story appeared the Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan, taking all the credit, moved with unholy haste to single-handedly destroy the brand of the soon to be launched megabucks news channel BOL.
Similarly, it has taken an investigative report by BBC’s Owen Benet-Jones to give a wakeup call to the government. Whatever the BBC has reported is not news to those who have for years have been on the receiving end of the stick from the MQM.
The BBC report is based on conversations with unnamed Pakistani officials. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to guess that the hatchet job against the MQM was conducted by the interior ministry itself with the tacit backing of the military establishment and approval of the prime minister.
MQM, thanks to a little help from the establishment in the past as well as shrewdly weaved political alliances, has literally been able to get way with murder and to strengthen its strangle hold simultaneously. A creation of the late dictator General Zia-ul-Haq in order to cut Jamaat-e-Islami and the PPP down to size in Karachi in the eighties, it thrived under the patronage of General Musharraf.
Interestingly, Altaf Hussain’s deep links with India as well as his controversial Delhi visit took place while Musharraf was firmly in the saddle in 2004. At the time the Indian government supposedly tried to elicit his support for a negotiated settlement of the Kashmir dispute.
If the government has enough evidence, as it now claims to have, it should file a reference against the party in the Supreme Court
But Altaf’s real agenda was different. In an emotionally charged speech at the Hindustan Times conclave he categorically declared: “The division of the subcontinent was the biggest blunder…it was not the division of land, it was the division of blood.”
The MQM rank and file claims allegiance to the Pakistani state. Rightly so. Barring the criminal elements and thugs dominating the party leadership, it represents the aspirations of a large swath of the urban Sindh populace.
Altaf Hussain has a lot to answer for even in London including party stalwart Imran Farooq’s murder in 2012 and money laundering and tax fraud allegations. Back home bhatta mafias, murderers, arsonists and extortionists have played havoc with impunity for so many years, destroying the peace of Karachi in the process.
Media persons have been at the wrong end of the stick of MQM’s third degree tactics for many years now. In the process, most of the media houses kowtowed to Altaf Hussain and his cohorts’ threats and act of violence against them.
Having a political stance supporting good relations with India is perfectly kosher. Just because a political party openly espouses friendly ties with India, it cannot be termed as a traitor. However receiving military training, and getting financial assistance from a foreign power, hostile or otherwise, is most serious business.
Despite the extremely grave charge sheet against the MQM, it should be given ample opportunity to put up a credible defence. For that purpose the apex court is the best forum.
If the government has enough evidence, as it now claims to have, it should file a reference against the party in the Supreme Court. Likewise, the MQM should make good its threat to take the BBC to the cleaners for running a smear campaign.
Politically speaking, owing to the MQM’s wide support base in urban Sindh, it cannot be simply disenfranchised. After all it has a more than significant presence in the parliament as well as the Sindh Assembly. The party’s legislators and high command, largely composed of very able political operators, should be given ample opportunity to purge criminal leaders and elements dominating the outfit for so long.