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October 18, 2017

Has the Muhajir card faded out?


October 18, 2017

Pakistani politics by and large revolve around nationalist cards in the absence of national parties, but the one card which is fast fading out, if not already expired, is the Muhajir card, and chances of its revival look quite bleak. While political ‘dry-cleaning of politicians and politics continues, the Muhajir leadership itself is responsible for its irresponsible politics.

Muhajir politics has fell victim to its own creation and it looks as if the Muhajirs missed the greatest opportunity of not only developing a healthy political culture of true middle class politics but also setting an example for others, being representative of once the most educated class.

But, those who analysed Muhajir politics without analysing the role of the successive establishments and intelligence agencies have not done justice to the phenomenon. Even today, this practice has not stopped, which, perhaps, in a long term may not help anyone in getting Karachi back to what it supposed to be as a true ‘mini-Pakistan' and the economic hub of the country.

Karachi, which was once considered as the city of opposition, and played a leading role in successive movements from 1953 student movement to 1968 anti-Ayub and 1977 anti-Bhutto movement, before the city was divided on ethnic grounds.

Let the politics transform itself in a natural way as there is a serious sense of realisation among Muhajirs or Urdu-speaking that the politics of their representative parties had not been up to the mark, rather it damaged their own identity.

Whether Muhajir politics was the result of circumstance, injustice or the creation of military dictator or establishment, the amount of support which they got from their voters and supporters was simply unprecedented in Pakistan's political history. And it could only be compared with the kind of support the Awami League or Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) got in 1970.

They were not only used by the establishment as a check or balance for the PPP in Sindh, but they also allowed themselves to be used with their frequent joining and leaving the government.

Why I am using the word Muhajir politics, and not the MQM politics, is because for almost three decades they were considered as the sole representatives of urban Sindh and particularly Muhajirs.

The quota system in jobs and admissions, around which their politics mainly revolved since the days of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had finally been abolished after it lapsed in 2013, but the Muhajir leadership was not aware of this development till a year back. Like other mainstream parties, such as the PPP or PML-N, the Muhajir's representative party also badly managed the issue of unemployment through ghost employees or over-employment in local governments in particular and, as a result, these departments like Water Board, KMC, KDA or Sindh Building Control Authority, experienced a serious financial crisis. The PPP governments did the same in other departments like education and health.

Muhajir leadership was supposed to establish the merit system and should have led from the front, because for decades merit and education had been their strength. Thus, they damaged their own political culture and destroyed their own strength.

Violence and use of violent means had never been part of their political culture but, in the post-80s politics till today, they had been branded by their opponents and those who actually are responsible for forcing them to take up arms as terrorists. They had been accused of some of the worst kinds of killings, extortion, money-laundering and all this made them the biggest suspect in the eye of other ethnic groups. They became the worst victims of violent strikes.

Yes, thousands of Muhajirs had been killed, many by their own people too as a result of widespread ethnic riots but, it is the question which Muhajir leadership needs to address to themselves as to why in all these ethnic riots, one ethnic group is common in all these riots i.e. the MQM.

Muhajir leadership could make Karachi, a truly the 'City of Lights,' and Hyderabad, city of Sindh's culture only, if they had not taken the violent path in politics.

Muhajir's representative party, MQM, could have won many elections even without doing anything forcibly and NA-246, Azizabad by-election in 2014, was the best example of it.

But, its leadership got furious when Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) got 0.8 million vote in 2013. Had they considered this anti-MQM vote as a wake-up call in a positive manner, MQM could have recovered.

They opted for the other path and as a result faced the worst ever crisis and today, the Muhajir politics is in complete, disarray.

Today, Muhajir politics has become the victim of its own creation. Its leadership, which in the past had faced criticism from opponents are facing even worst kind of criticism from their own leaders, who had either defected or had abandon the worst phase of their politics i.e. 1984 to August 22nd, 2016.

The Muhajir card is very unlikely to renew now as not only the time has changed but there is no more Bhutto or Benazir, as a challenger, today. Their division in two or three factions like MQM-Pakistan, Pak-Sarzameen Party, MQM-H or MQM-London, suit those who now feel somewhat satisfied that this 'chapter,' is coming to close.

How will it reshape in the next general elections or in two or three years, would be quite interesting to watch. One thing looks certain and that is, after elections there will be no sole representative of Karachi, at the national level despite the confidence or rather over confidence of Syed Mustafa Kamal and Dr Farooq Sattar, the product of this politics but, the one who now admit that Muhajir politics suffered more from within and than from outside.

While both are confident of clean-sweep in urban Sindh, what is good that both are against violence and even tension has defused. Rest is politics and they have right to do politics.

So, it is better that if they change their style of politics, it is better for those who matters, to let them change themselves with their own free thinking, as they are capable leaders, instead of trying to dry clean them.  

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

 Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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