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Islamabad

Mazhar Abbas
October 25, 2017

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Minus MQM formula

Minus MQM formula

It appears as if the MQM-Pakistan is going to collapse, but its political fallout could be devastating in terms of future politics of urban Sindh. However, it certainly opens up space for parties like PSP.

MQM went through many crises but it could not recover after the 2013 elections and as a result of the fallout of Aug 22. The dry cleaning factory continues to wash what they considered the dirt in the MQM.

The MQM-Pakistan leaders – who are under immense pressure to opt either for PSP or should go for a new name or wind up the MQM – have for the first time threatened to quit, if these pressure tactics are not stopped. Those, who will benefit from the fall of MQM-Pakistan, are PSP, PPP, PTI, JI or ultimately the MQM-London.

Since the Aug 22 episode and the MQM-Pakistan decision’s to distance itself from London and later declaring itself as a party, they have been 'advised' to merge with PSP, something which majority of the party leaders rejected.

When the MQM-Pakistan’s decision was welcomed by different parties including PML-N and PPP, the party leaders thought they would get its headquarters minus Nine Zero back, but it didn’t happen till this date and subsequently have been told in different ways that the words MQM and Haq Parast and election symbol kite are now unacceptable.

At one stage when the MQM-Pakistan started considering merger with PSP, former governor Dr Ishrat-ul-Ebad advised Dr Sattar and others that it would prove disastrous for them and Dr Ibad in the process himself lost his strong position.

The three decisions which resulted in MQM-Pakistan losing the confidence of certain quarters had been the nomination of Waseem Akhtar as Karachi mayor, vote for Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in the PM's election and the alleged double game in Senate – Mian Atiq's vote during the constitutional amendment which paved the way for Nawaz Sharif getting elected as the PML-N president.

While the MQM-Pakistan is confident that they would get development funds for Karachi and Hyderabad in return, as promised by the prime minister and the Sindh governor, it may not be as easy because of the possible resistance from certain quarters and the Sindh government as happened in post-Aug 22 scenario.

Waseem Akhtar's name was rejected because of his hard-line stance and nomination as mayor despite the opposition from these quarters because it was considered a policy of defiance.

The MQM-Pakistan attempt to come closer to the PML-N, Nawaz Sharif and PM Abbasi did not go well in certain quarters and thus problems aggravated for Dr Sattar and his men.

While on the one hand, the PSP and Kamal enjoyed good will in these quarters, their role is likely to increase in coming months and most MNAs and MPAs may join them. However, they have now been told or decided not to force anyone to quit their assembly seats unlike in the recent past.

Whether the PSP enjoyed support among the MQM's traditional constituencies or not, Kamal succeeded in uprooting Dr Ebad who once enjoyed full confidence of the establishment and IS still in their good book, just because he played a role in preventing MQM-Pakistan from merging with PSP.

Dr Ebad from nowhere indulged in a controversy with Kamal and in the end lost his strong position and settled in Dubai. But he still believes that the PSP formula may not be materialised because the voters would consider the group as establishment's king's party.

However, sources say Dr Ebad is still in the loop, particularly when it comes to the possible game plan in urban Sindh because of his deep political insight in Mohajir politics in particular.

Whether the MQM-Pakistan survives as a party till the next elections and, if not, will it be replace by PSP or a combination of PPP, PTI and JI, the party leaders and legislators are finding it hard to sustain the pressure.

It did not get a positive response from the ‘relevant quarters’ in the post-Aug 22 period, although these quarters are more or less convinced that the top party leadership is not in touch with the MQM-London which itself is facing a crisis after their key players, Nadeem Nusrat and Wasey Jalil, for one reason or the other, distanced themselves from MQM founder Altaf Hussain after their contacts were picked up from Pakistan.

The MQM-Pakistan had been advised by some quarters to merge with the PSP and later also given the option that both should agree on another name of the party.

Dr Sattar and his team were of the view that the Mohajir voters might not accept packing up the MQM completely as a party and would still vote in the name of MQM and kite.

The August 22 experience was the most shocking for the millions of MQM voters and whatever happened in the aftermath of Altaf Hussain's anti-Pakistan narrative, the voters are not ready to accept that under any circumstances.

Sources say it was decided at time to give a chance to the MQM-Pakistan, but the demand of handing over Khursheed Memorial Hall, MPA’s hostel or holding meetings at Jinnah Park Azizabad were rejected.

While the MQM-Pakistan never demanded Nine Zero – the residence of Altaf Hussain, which remained the centre of MQM politics for over three decades – the relevant quarters were not even ready for any political activity around it. Thus, it first shifted the party headquarters to PIB Colony near the residence of Dr Sattar and later to Bahadurabad.

When Nawaz Sharif during his tenure agreed that the MQM-Pakistan should be handed over Khursheed Memorial Hall and MPA hostel and later PM Abbasi and Governor Mohammad Zubair also agreed, the opposition came from the Sindh government and relevant quarters.

MNA Salman Mujahid Baloch's accusation may not have much substance, particularly Dr Sattar's links with London, as his faction had been branded by the MQM founder as 'Farooq ka Tola', but there is a problem.

The role of intelligence agencies may have diminished or minimised in national politics although some believe it is still very much there, but serious doubts exist in the case of Karachi politics in general and that of MQM in particular either in the form of dry cleaning or use of the hidden hands.

While the MQM since 1978 always faced the criticism of being a brainchild of the establishment, the same establishment have also been criticised for breaking the party in 1991, again in 1993 and finally in 2016. During all these years, the MQM and its founder had a love and hate relationship with the establishment.

The attempt to split the MQM failed in 1991 when MQM-Haqqiqi was formed and also when the party’s first and only chairman Azeem Ahmad Tariq was used and killed.

But the MQM-London and its leadership's complete disconnect with the ground situation and the Pakistani politics led to what they did on Aug 22, without realising that the anti-Pakistan narrative is simply unacceptable not only to state but also to any Pakistani, particularly its own vote bank.

What Dr Sattar and the MQM leadership in Pakistan did on August 23 was a right decision which was also followed by back-to-back resolutions against the MQM founder in the National and Sindh assemblies; however, they were not given a freehand to operate.

From Aug 23 till this day, their leaders and workers constantly are suspected. However on the other hand, all those who joined the PSP are not only getting major relief in cases but others, who will now join it, would also not face pressure to resign from their seats.

All these developments clearly indicate that the PSP is being considered as possible replacement of MQM. However, it is going to interesting to watch whether this switch over would also be acceptable to the voters.

During the last few weeks, one felt that the otherwise confident Dr Sattar is losing the confidence, with Kamal gaining the same. In a way, Kamal is, perhaps, overconfident when he predicted a clean sweep in urban Sindh and his party emerging as a majority party in Sindh.

Irrespective of the final fate of MQM, there is a general question among the political and intellectual circles that how long the political experiments will continue in our politics, particularly in Karachi.

The MQM – which started its journey with a slogan 'Manzil Nahin Rahnuma’ – didn’t find the manzil, while the rahnuma himself lost his direction.

The writer is a senior columnist and analyst of GEO, The News and Jang.

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO

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