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October 30, 2017

MQM-Pakistan takes a hit as deputy mayor defects to PSP


October 30, 2017

In a major hit to Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Arshad Vohra, the deputy mayor of Karachi, has left the party to join the Mustafa Kamal-led Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP).

In a press conference on Sunday at the PSP’s headquarters, Pakistan House, Vohra said he had decided to leave MQM-P, which is headed by Farooq Sattar, because the party had failed to deliver to the people of the city when it could have done so even with the “limited resources” available to it. 

“I remained patient for one year and repeatedly asked the leadership to work for the city, but they didn’t. [Now] I cannot face the public anymore,” said Vohra, who was flanked by multiple PSP leaders including the party’s president, Anis Kaimkhani.

The MQM-P has vehemently maintained that the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government has ripped the local bodies of powers and resources and they cannot function properly in this scenario.

“If you cannot serve the public then it is better that you relinquish the responsibility,” Vohra said regarding the lack of resources and official power. He, however, didn’t clarify if he was resigning from the deputy mayor post as well, but added that the legal course will be followed.  

Taking the microphone, Kaimkhani, the PSP president, reminded Farooq Sattar of his October 22 press conference in which he had warned that if more of MQM-P’s elected representatives were “forced” to switch to the rival party then its lawmakers will resign from the Senate, National and Sindh assemblies en bloc. 

“He [Sattar] should exhibit some moral courage and submit resignations,” said Kaimkhani, adding that if MQM-P resigns then PSP – for the first time – will contest by-polls on the seats falling vacant. 

The PSP president criticised MQM-P, saying that now Vohra might make it to their list of “bad” persons because of his decision to switch. “We ask MQM-P to give us a list of who is bad and who is good. Because there are going to be more people joining PSP,” he claimed.   

MQM-P’s move

Now that the Karachi deputy mayor has joined PSP, all eyes are on MQM-P’s next move. Its spokesperson, Aminul Haque, told The News that a meeting of the coordination committee has been convened on Monday (today) to decide the future course keeping in view all the pros and cons.

The growing apprehensions of Sattar and the confidence of Kamal suggests that the political landscape in Karachi and other urban centres of Sindh has been shifting or being re-engineered, however, the losing side hopes to overcome the challenges.

For MQM-P, their November 5 rally against the “controversial” population census results of Karachi seems the imminent opportunity to cover up the losses by holding a convincing street power show. “We will go to the public now as it is the last political option we have,” Haque said.

The MQM-P has alleged that PSP is being backed by “invisible forces” i.e. the establishment. Dr Farooq Sattar alluded to the same as he spoke to the media in Manzoor Colony on Sunday evening after Vohra’s defection.

He said Vohra may have sought refuge with the PSP owing to the Federal Investigation Agency’s cases against him pertaining to money laundering and misuse of Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation’s funds.

“Anis Kaimkhani will help Vohra with the FIA cases,” he claimed, requesting the PSP leader to “take care” of his former political affiliate. “Those who have quit [MQM-P] are already in trouble. We don’t want to add to their problems,” he said. Another MQM-P leader who spoke to The News requesting anonymity seconded Sattar’s aspersions.

“His [Vohra’s] bank accounts were frozen after the FIR lodged by Sarfaraz Merchant. The FIA has been visiting his offices and, as always, a businessman goes for the most beneficial option in such times,” he claimed.

PSP, on the other hand, refutes the allegations of being backed by the establishment though there have been incidents like the recovery and inclusion in PSP of scores of missing MQM workers that suggest it has good ties with law enforcement agencies. According to a top PSP leader, the proportion of recovered missing MQM activists who had joined PSP had diminished and more and more other people have been joining.  

Consolidating power?

Reports surfaced earlier this year that MQM-P, PSP and Afaq Ahmed’s Mohajir Qaumi Movement – Haqiqi (MQM-H) were in talks to form a coalition to contest the upcoming general election in a bid to save the Urdu-speaking community or the Mohajir vote bank from dividing. However, the talks could not reach a conclusion.

Sattar and Kamal are adamant that there would be no coalition, however, Ahmed’s proposal of seat adjustment still seems to be on the cards, though his MQM-H has never been able to secure a considerable mandate.

“Soon the whole MQM-P will merge into the PSP,” Kamal claimed in a conversation with The News. “They have no other option but to leave that mandate that they acquired in the name of Altaf Hussain. Our doors are always open for them. And if they want to contest in their personal capacity or on a newer platform, they should go for it.”

Sattar, admitting that the times are too challenging for the MQM-P, is hopeful of surviving through it. However, not as hopeful as PSP, he is looking to the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz for a helping hand in a time when it also faces a strong opposition from a certain quarter.  

The financially challenged MQM-P has sought a helping hand from the federal government in return for its “unconditional” support. It has sought funds in the name of development packages, the opening of sealed party headquarters in Azizabad, excluding the MQM founder’s residence, and leniency in prosecution against its incarcerated party workers, a source in the MQM coordination committee said.

He added that the PSP enjoys better connections with the establishment than MQM-P, which was why it made better offers to their party leaders and workers. “They [the establishment] can help you with dropping the investigations and charges and the most lucrative thing is that they can save you from being persecuted,” he said.

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