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Editorial

February 11, 2018

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Crisis in MQM-P

Crisis in MQM-P

Rifts within the MQM-Pakistan that have been brewing under the surface burst into public view on Thursday when two different factions from the party submitted separate nomination papers for Senate candidates and held press conferences to air their grievances. One faction, led by party convenor Farooq Sattar, filed papers for eight candidates while the other faction, which includes much of the Rabita Committee, is backing seven entirely different candidates. The main sticking point appears to be Sattar’s preference for Kamran Tessori, who had been removed from the Rabita Committee and suspended from the party for six months earlier this week for violating party discipline. The Rabita Committee wrote to the ECP, asking it to disregard the nominations filed by Sattar who – in turn – has accused a faction led by Amir Khan of trying to depose him. In what was seen as an attempt at appeasement, the Rabita Committee later rescinded the letter on Saturday night. Such problems are hardly new for the MQM-Pakistan, a party that has faced more challenges in the last couple of years than most. In the past, though, the cult following enjoyed by former party chief Altaf Hussain would be sufficient to paper over any cracks. None of the party’s current leaders enjoy that same devotion.

Divisions within a party are hardly unique to the MQM-Pakistan. Indeed, it would not be surprising if other political parties faced similar challenges in allocating Senate seats. But everything the MQM-Pakistan does garners outsized attention, possibly because of the rather high emotional drama the party seems to favour. The MQM had always opted for a Great Man political culture that was based on the cult of personality of one individual. Now it stands politically orphaned, and needs to readjust to new realities. To give due credit, Sattar has provided a steady hand in keeping the party together even as it has faced down new factions like the Pak Sarzameen Party; he needs to navigate this crisis with a steady hand too. Even if it should emerge intact, the MQM-Pakistan needs a raison d’être, and needs to cast off its old way of operating and show that it has matured. The party faces enough challenges from outside actors without adding to them through its own dysfunctionality. Rather than relying on the charisma of one leader, it has to operate with a leadership based on consensus.

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