The politics of terror


Altaf Hussain, MQM and the perils of democracy in Pakistan 



A man who has lived for the past twenty four years in exile in London, picks up the phone when he wills, provokes his party workers, invites them to incite violence to prove their loyalty and then from the comfort of his home thousands of miles away, watches the descend of Karachi into chaos. We have seen this episode many times – way too many to actually remember the count. The result is always the same – shock, anger, frustration, de-escalation and then resumption of normalcy (whatever that represents).


Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) is considered to be the pre-eminent party of Karachi and it has consistently chosen the politics of terror to maintain that position. What most of us knew in our hearts, the leader of the party, Altaf Hussain, said in his telephonic address to the nation on Tuesday. They say man’s worst enemy is himself and the rant that Hussain engaged in this week, proves just that. He has surprised us with numerous antics in the past as well. From drunken appearances to breaking out and singing in the middle of a political speech, we thought that we had seen it all. However, this time, he has hit rock bottom and given the party’s dark history, it was indeed a pretty difficult thing to do. He openly called Pakistan the cancer of the world, an epicentre of terrorism, swore at the forces of the country, threatened to kill the DG Rangers and also the Chief of Army Staff of Pakistan. He then asked his supporters to head towards two of the mainstream news channel offices, ARY and Saamaa, to express their party’s displeasure over less media coverage in a violent manner. He also warned about an attack on the Rangers’ office and a possible lock down of the Sindh Secretariat.  


The politically charged and angry party supporters, following the orders of their party leader, were herded towards the news offices like sheep and then attacked it. At least one person was killed and many others were injured in the madness that followed Hussain’s address. He then later issued a lip-service apology stating ‘severe mental stress’ as the reason for this anti-state hate speech. Chapter closed? No, not really. 


Soon after, the news of Altaf Hussain calling the party’s United States office emerged in which he directed the workers to muster up international support and a possible coalition to dismantle Pakistan. He specifically asked for the support of US, Israel, India and Afghanistan. The embodiment of madness that Altaf Hussain represents, indeed seldom ceases to amaze or end.


The core of the problem may be with the MQM party leader but it certainly doesn’t end there. The party members of MQM have been accused of the most heinous crimes ranging from target killing, land extortion, manipulation, torture, and causing political unrest in Karachi. MQM operates more like a mafia gang than a political party. The election of Waseem Akhtar, a man who has been detained on the charges of aiding militants, as the mayor of Karachi, and his decision to ‘open an office in the prison’ and dealing with the matters of the council via ‘video links’ is a testimony to that. This is dirty power politics at its best; one has to read the news twice to actually believe it. Akhtar actually congratulated the people of Karachi for appointing him as the mayor – as if the people of Karachi didn’t deserve any better than being governed by a man from behind prison bars. If we don’t see a strong condemnation followed by strict action against the party’s head and its members by the political leadership and military forces of the country then we can also lay to rest the dream for a peaceful, meritocratic and progressive Pakistan.  

One can’t claim to be a patriot and meanwhile coil international conspiracies to divide and destroy the very same country. One can’t spew hatred in public speeches inciting subsequent violence and then expect using being under ‘mental stress’ as a valid excuse. One can’t chant anti-state and defamatory slogans and yet allege to be the leader of one of the country’s most prominent political parties.


It is preposterous. 


It is unacceptable. 


Unless you are in Pakistan – a country where anything is possible. Where the sitting prime minister’s children can be accused of owning offshore companies and assets that are not shown on the family’s wealth statement. Where the PM can still have the audacity to go in complete denial on national television, owning no responsibilities for his actions, showing no remorse and rather glossing over the past and painting a rosy picture of the future with countless strokes of lies. This is our version of the promised gift of democracy.


There is always a tipping point. With the way MQM leaders conduct themselves and the manner in which the party operates, the way our political leaders get away with every crime, the multi-billion dollar question hangs in the air- when will it be too much for Pakistanis to take? They say all good things come to an end. Looking at the horrors committed in the name of democracy in Pakistan, I wish it were true the other way around as well. If we continue to make the decision of choosing inaction, apathy and turning a blind eye to the evils committed by our so-called political leadership, it is not only our country’s present but also the future that will be ultimately defined by that.