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Karachi

March 7, 2016

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As MQM’s youth considers options,can defections be expected amid the intrigue?

Karachi

Just when the supporters and foes of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement were anxiously waiting to see the next move of Kamal-Qaimkhani duo, a silent yet significant step has already been taken by the latter.

Soon after the high-voltage presser of the dissident leaders, scores of students previously and currently affiliated with the MQM’s student body, the All Pakistan Muttahida Student Organisation (APMSO), met with them, The News learned on Sunday.

Azhar*, a former student of the NED and member of the Tanzeemi Committee of the student body, confirmed that 15 activists, including former APMSO members, had met with Mustafa Kamal.

“Former unit in-charges have met with Mustafa bhai,” he maintained. “With the party being run by newbies, who are more prone towards bullying than any constructive dialogue or action; this was sure to happen.”     

 

‘Won’t confirm, neither deny’

Flanked by youngsters, Kamal was being received like a rockstar at his open-for-all residence. Selfies, warm handshakes, and smiles by his supporters – it was evident that Kamal was enjoying it.

Amid all this, a young man said, “Mustufa Bhai, I really want to campaign for you in my area but I am scared of the ‘Bori’.”

In response, Kamal smiled at him but refrained from commenting on it.

When The News asked Kamal if he had met with the MQM’s student activists; he replied after a brief pause, “Though I have been contacted from all over Pakistan, I can neither confirm, nor deny my meeting with APMSO representatives.”

He added that young people were visiting him in large numbers, and he was not concerned about their political backgrounds.

 

New Haji Camp?

Speaking to The News, MQM leader and the nominated mayor, Waseem Akhtar, dismissed the possibility of young party activists joining the Kamal-Qaimkhani duo.

“The party is intact,” he said. “Karachi has population of over 20 million people and it won’t bother the MQM if a few of its young supporters joined some other party.”

Akhtar maintained that the families of young MQM activists, who were either missing or arrested, were receiving phone calls through unknown numbers urging them to contact Anis Qaimkhani immediately.

“For us, it is history repeating itself. First it was the Haji Camp at Muhammad Ali Society, now it is a house in the Defence Housing Authority,” an emotionally-charged Akhtar said.

 

Fear factor

Asad Hafeez*, a final year student in the University of Karachi, observed that Kamal had lit a new spark among students, but they were reluctant to join him immediately.

“It’s the fear factor that is keeping us from openly declaring support for him [Kamal], otherwise we don’t doubt his honesty and sincerity,” he added.

Explaining those factors, Hafeez, who in his words comes from a family of “die-hard MQM loyalists”, said when he had expressed his interest in meeting with Kamal after the press conference, his father had advised him against it saying that the current development was similar to how the State had engineered a plan against the MQM by launching Afaq Ahmed, as a result of which many young activists had lost their lives.

However, standing next to him, Zahid Bukhari, also a student, said, “Kamal bhai is the only reason I joined the MQM. I have never met Altaf bhai. He is only a virtual icon for me, but Kamal bhai was always seen working on the ground among his people,” he added.

Bukhari believes that a conspiracy was hatched against Kamal to curb his growing popularity, after which he had left the country.

“However, these are big games. Our families will not let us risk our lives as being part of the Urdu-speaking community we have paid the price for supporting Haqiqi as well.”

 

APMSO

APMSO Pakistan chairperson Sarfaraz Siddiqui said there had been reports of some former activists, who had been expelled, meting with Kamal and Qaimkhani, but they did not include any leader of the group. “The defectors are opportunists. Many of them were expelled from the APMSO because they cheating in their exams or were involved in fraud,” he claimed.

 

The Qaimkhani influence

Veteran journalist Mubasher Zaidi said if APMSO activists and supporters were joining the Kamal’s party, the reason could be Qaimkhani’s influence.

 “As Qaimkhani was earlier looking after the MQM`s organisational structure, he is in touch with the people on ground,” he said. “However the duo has to remain patient as what we are seeing right now is a muted response”.

He predicted that if behind-the-scene efforts of Kamal and Qaimkhani did not yield positive results in three of four days, their hype would eventually fizzle out.

— Names have been changed to protect identities.

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