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June 19, 2017



Who split MQM?

June 19, 1992 was the turning point in the politics of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) when for the first time it was divided into two factions: MQM and MQM-Haqiqi. Twenty-five years back, this split was the beginning of an unending crisis for once the most powerful party of urban Sindh. Till this day, it could not recover and with the passage of time, three more factions were created.


Today, the party, and its founding members including the founder, are finding it hard to stage a comeback. Perhaps, politics may not remain the same and those who have grown up with divided ethnic politics have to redefine their approach, if they really want to survive as a political reality and identity.

The question is as to who created the MQM and who later played a key role in its break-up into four factions? The MQM is also responsible for the damage caused to its own politics.

June 19 and its fallout is the classical example of how politics is being run in this country through 'divide and rule’, particularly in Sindh, and how intra-intelligence rivalries change the political discourse.

The MQM, from being a strong political reality of urban Sindh, became victim of its own creation, when it deviated from its basics and were smartly used by those who wanted to use them for creating gulf in rural and urban. Creation of MQM was also a failure of mainstream national parties.

The army operation under the command of former army chief, late General Asif Nawaz, was to wiped out all big fishes completely, irrespective of their political affiliations. However, later on it became a selective operation to split the MQM and for the first time in Sindh's political history a minority government without the support of the PPP and the MQM was installed allegedly with backing of the agencies, by forcing MPAs to join Syed Muzzafar Hussain Shah-led government.

However, in the last 25 years, the MQM-H failed in getting electoral support and once its leadership themselves admitted that they were used and not allowed political space. These 25 years resulted in violent politics in which several thousand activists and some leaders of both factions had been killed.

This writer, along with many colleagues, knows how the original operation to finish militants, dacoits, 72 big fish, was turned into creation of political division for political purposes. Some of the former officials of rival agencies i.e. Military Intelligence (MI) and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), who were involved in 1992 operation, admitted that due to lack of coordination and approaches, it did not achieve what it had been looking for.

The fallout of 1992 operation was so counterproductive that it resulted in further violence and political uncertainty. Next year general elections will be the test of all four factions, but the recent decision of the MQM-London, which enjoyed the support of MQM founder, has indicated that if the government did not lift a ban on the MQM founder, it would boycott the polls and would ask its voters to stay at home. As situation stands today, there is little chance that the unofficial ban on MQM-London and on the speeches of its founder would be lifted. 

The MQM-London wanted to prove two things from the possible boycott: (1) Muhajirs are still behind its founder, and (2) break-away factions have no support in urban Sindh. However, it will be a risk for MQM-L, especially if people still use their right to vote and elect either MQM-Pakistan or Pak-Sarzameen Party (PSP) candidates.

Boycott may not be easy. But if the MQM-London succeeded in keeping its voters away from polling stations, it would be a far bigger challenge for the establishment as well as for those who have written off London.

This is also a challenge for other political parties like Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to fill the vacuum.

What happened on June 19, 1992 was the outcome of the politics of the then MQM leadership, when it played into the hands of certain relevant quarters after it swept back-to-back elections in urban Sindh, local bodies in 1987, and general elections in 1988. It was like a mini revolution as almost all the nonentities, lower middle class youth completely wiped out the religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan as well as Pakistan People’s Party, which in 1970s election won eight Sindh Assembly and two National Assembly seats.

An independent foreign researcher in his latest book on Pakistan's politics revealed that it was General Ziaul Haq, who was scared of PPP after the MRD movement in 1983, and threat from self exiled leader, Benazir Bhutto to take political revenge. Thus, in one of the meeting he asked his officials to support ethnic groups and Muhajirs in Sindh, as he also not wanted strong Jamaat-e-Islami, after the execution of powerful Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, founder of PPP. His politics was to use parties and leaders and introduce his own system to prolong his rule. In many ways, he succeeded.

The other view is that the MQM was the natural outcome of Sindh's politics after quota system during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's term, which was followed by ethnic clashes in which many people were killed.

The MQM never looked back after its first public meeting in 1986, at Nishtar Park. But, even the MQM or those watching these developments had never thought the kind of mandate it got in 1987 local governments.

Politics was further polarised on ethnic lines when two or three weeks before 1988 elections, Hyderabad massacre occurred in which over 250 had been killed within minutes followed by massive killing in Karachi. Even after nearly 30 years, no one knows till this day the real conspiracy, but the event which followed tells us lots of unfolding events.

In 1988, the then establishment created an opposition alliance to block PPP's landslide victory, the fact later admitted by none other than the former ISI chief, late General Hameed Gul.

It was also the turning point in MQM's politics and some stories started coming out from within about the nature of its politics from the one it had been voted. In 1987, there was a serious debate within the party over the nomination of mayor's post. Dr Farooq Sattar was finally nominated and elected without much contest. Thus, he became the youngest mayor.

The PPP, despite two-thirds majority in the Sindh Assembly, realised that it could not ignore massive urban support for MQM, and thus reached an accord with the MQM.

There was also a sense of realisation within the MQM, particularly from the leaders who believe in liberal and secular outlook of the MQM, like the late Akhtar Rizvi. Thus, on its part, it dropped its basic demands of abolishing quota system or a separate province in a bid to join mainstream politics. They were of the view that they had achieved the main goal by establishing Muhajir identity. Earlier, in 1986, the MQM reached an understanding with the late GM Syed, founder of Jeay Sindh, but it could not last after Hyder Bux Chowk clash in Hyderabad.

Unfortunately, the MQM committed the biggest blunder by losing the confidence of Benazir Bhutto and the PPP, when it secretly reached an accord with the ISI-backed IJI, led by Nawaz Sharif. It not only played a role in vote of no confidence against BB's government, which though defeated, but laid the foundation of further uncertain politics in Sindh.

From 1990 to 1999, the MQM was used and it allowed itself to be used against both the PPP and the PML-N. The two parties also played into the hands of the establishment by following the policy in the name of crushing militancy, but in reality only failed in the politics of divide and rule.

How far former president, retired General Pervez Musharraf was sincere in bring the MQM back into the mainstream politics. On the one hand, he abolished MQM-H, put Afaq and Aamir in jail, but on the other hand, instead of ridding the MQM of militancy, he tried to use it in his favour. May 12, 2007 was a clear example. Thus, he did not do a great service either to the MQM or to himself.

All this is now history as we are preparing for another political discourse. It’s time for both establishment and the MQM founding father to learn few lessons i.e. divide and rule may prolong the rule, but in the end it’s the nation and the state, which suffer. All the changes to come from natural democratic process.

The writer is the senior columnist and analyst of Geo, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO