In an emotional speech delivered from London to an audience gathered at Lal Qila Ground in Karachi, MQM Chief Altaf Hussain has asked the military to come to the rescue of the city and to end the spree of killings continuing there. He has blamed the government for completely failing to control the situation and suggested that all criminal elements, regardless of the party they belong to, be shot on sight. He has also issued another 48-hour ultimatum to the government to get matters under control, though it is not clear what actions will be taken if this is not met. It is not insignificant that Altaf’s speech, breaking away from the usual pattern, was delivered primarily in English. He clearly had an international audience in mind and indeed called on the world community to come to the defence of the Mohajirs. Indeed, the prime focus of the impassioned address appeared to be to deny that the MQM was behind the recent spree of violence in Karachi. He instead stressed the MQM and Mohajirs had been victims themselves – over and over again. In this context the MQM chief spoke of political violence, much of it directed against supporters of Fatima Jinnah, at a time when the MQM had not even been formed and of a repetition of similar events in 1973. Altaf spoke of the victimisation of the Mohajirs and the discrimination they had been subjected to, with a failure to assimilate them or accept them as equal citizens.
The speech is significant in the sense that it lays out the MQM mood and also makes it quite clear that the party is not ready to quietly hear accusations that it alone is triggering unrest in Karachi. The call for military intervention perhaps reflects the desperation of the party. But we need also to hope that other solutions can be found. Over six decades after a violent Partition, it is an irony that so many differences based along ethnic lines remain in place. It is clear that periodic unrest in Karachi cannot be sorted out until these tensions are laid to rest. We need far greater assimilation, unity and a willingness among people to live together regardless of ethnic differences.