Thursday June 08, 2023

In times of desertions, why are veteran leftists joining the MQM?

August 16, 2016


Suffering defections of its known lawmakers and members to the dissident Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) led by former city mayor Mustafa Kamal and senior party leader Anis Qaimkhani, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) seems to have found an inkling of support from a few erstwhile leftist activists.

Sathi Ishaq Advocate was the first progressive activist to make the switch, ending his three-decade long association with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to join the MQM’s ranks on April 27 this year. 

His move was followed by the May 15 joining of prominent leftist intellectual Dr Hassan Zafar Arif, and the most recent inclusion has been another senior leftist activist, Momin Khan Momin, who announced his decision to join MQM at a presser held in Hyderabad on August 11.

Of the leftist leaders to have made the switch, Dr Arif, an eminent member of the Communist party, spent several months in jail for his politics of agitation during the Zia era. He was a professor at the University of Karachi’s Department of Philosophy, and later went on to serve as president of the varsity’s teachers’ body.

Momin, on the other hand, began his political career from the leftist student organisation, National Students’ Federation (NSF), later serving as the student body’s Karachi president. Not lately affiliated with any party, he remained associated with various leftist groups and organizations.

Welcoming the newcomers, the MQM said their inclusion would boost the morale of party workers.  

Speaking to The News, senior MQM leader Syed Aminul Haque said Momin, Dr Arif and Sathi were known for their contributions for restoration of democracy and freedom of expression during the dictatorial regime of Zia-ul-Haq.   

“They decided to join the MQM at a time when the party, and the Urdu-speaking community at large, is being persecuted by state authorities,” Haque claimed, adding, “Their inclusion in the MQM is in fact a reaction to that oppression.”

The claim was also supported by Momin who observed that the ‘state operation against the party and victimisation of MQM workers’ is what motivated him to join the party. 


A disillusioned Left 

Political analysts and left-wing activists have had somewhat mixed reactions to the recent inclusions in MQM. 

Dr Tausif Ahmed Khan, a political analyst, said leftist individuals who announced their associations with the MQM largely tend to believe that the party is being treated unfairly by the state.

“Their inclusion in the MQM also shows that they want to pursue parliamentary politics,” Khan said. However, he was firm in his assertion that these individuals would not be able to bring about any real change by working with the MQM.

Other leftist activists believed that ever since the fall of the Soviet Union and the subsequent disillusionment faced by the left-wing, several veteran leftists had moved to join populist political parties.

However, appreciating the decision, another senior leftist activist opined that the joining of such individuals would have a positive impact on the MQM and would give its politics a better direction.  

“In an atmosphere of hopelessness and desperation, veteran leftists who have rendered significant contributions in promotion of socialist politics and strengthening of democracy all throughout the 1970s up until the 80s, have now either been absorbed by NGOs or populist and ethnic parties,” he said.      

The activist further added that leftist parties now stood divided into small groups where larger-than-life leaders were, sometimes, incapable of fitting in.  


The PSP phenomenon

On the other hand, the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP), founded on March 23 this year, also succeeded in attracting lawmakers and members who were initially given an identity by the MQM. 

Those who switched sides include people who served as the party’s unit and sector in-charges, while several others got to the parliament by winning elections on MQM tickets.

A sitting Sindh Assembly member of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and a spokesperson of former military head Pervez Musharaf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) was also among the several political leaders that joined the PSP.

PSP’s central leaders claim that a number of political activists, especially those of the MQM, will continue to join their ranks over the near future. 

They may have their reasons for the optimism but the MQM has, on several occasions, alleged that PSP was being backed by ‘certain quarters’ and has been established with the sole intention of splitting the once-dominant MQM’s mandate.