Monday October 25, 2021

What led to the fall of MQM-P

February 15, 2018

The MQM, from a strong and most-organised unit till 2013, now stands torn apart and practically divided into four factions which itself is an indication of political anarchy in the city as the mother party of these factions has also geared up to take full advantage from this chaotic situation within the MQM-Last week belongs to the MQM-P but for wrong reasons – chaos and division, creating more confusion among its own rank and file as other political parties awaits the final show down.

Interestingly, both PPP and JI, which have interest in Karachi’s politics, have geared up their campaign including membership drive. JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem on Monday announced that his party would give an alternate plan for the city.

So every party is now looking for 20 or 21 National Assembly and 51 provincial assembly seats of Karachi. The PPP is also optimistic of improving the tally of its Senate seats from Sindh from eight to at least 10. They have every right to take advantage of this situation.

The two factions of MQM-P are now looking towards the ECP to get recognition of their faction. The Rabita Committee apparently has an upper hand but do they also have enough MPAs with them to get them at least one or two Senate seats. Whoever wins this legal battle one thing is certain, the MQM, will be the main loser in this tug of war, with the third party being the beneficiary.

If one looks into the organisational structure of MQM, the Rabita Committee had been the most powerful organ after its founder. From 1984 to 1992, the MQM had the political setup – Central Working Committee, Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary General and other office-bearers – instead of the Rabita Committee. In the aftermath of army operation, its central body was disbanded and replaced by Rabita Committee.

The August 22, 2016 scenario gave an accidental birth to the MQM-P as separate political identity. In the last one and half years, the party tried to regain some of the loss but could not sustain the pressure, particularly on its convener Dr Farooq Sattar.

When he and others had decided to work as MQM-P, they were expecting relief from the establishment. They passed resolutions against the MQM founder and demanded his trial under sedition, but they were not able to remove the suspicion about their alleged links with the MQM-London. Then they faced pressure to abandon the name of MQM, as they were to get relief if a new party or group was formed.

On the one hand, they faced pressure from certain circles of the establishment and, on the other hand, from the Sindh government through Local Government Act, 2013 which practically took away all powers, making the Karachi mayor and the system powerless.

Thus, the MQM-P could neither get the names of its workers and leaders cleared from the cases/inquires nor was able to provide jobs to the jobless supporters. They only got some of their offices reopened but were not allowed to open sector and units. From 90 to Khursheed Memorial Hall to Jinnah Ground, everything remained a ‘no go area' for the MQM.

The MQM-P was also not allowed to freely carry out its Khidmat-e-Khalq Foundation work and collect donations. On the political front, the PML-N at the Centre and the PPP in Sindh kept their distance from the MQM, and never invited it to become part of coalition government despite assurances.

All this led to political and financial crisis within the MQM-P and created frustration among its MNAs, MPAs and others. At times, their leaders faced humiliation when called for meetings by non-political people who were looking after the MQM. Within months some MQM MNAs and MPAs as well as sectors and units started changing their loyalties from MQM-P to PSP or decided to go abroad. All this resulted in cracks within the party and people started raising questions over the leadership's failure to get relief for the workers.

Kamran Tessori’s entry into the MQM-P surprised many. In the past, he had been with the PML-F, but even back then he always enjoyed good relationship with Sattar and his family. It was surprising because he joined the MQM at a time when the party was in crisis. But his opponents within the party suspected that he was planted in the party.

Within a year, Tessori become the second-most trusted man for Sattar and claimed that he played an important role in getting relief for the party. He was inducted as Rabita Committee member, then become its deputy convenor, awarded party ticket for PS-117 and now is the centre of controversy over the Senate seat.

The turning point was the role played by Tessori in trying to bring the MQM-P and PSP closer. During the negotiations with PSP leaders Mustafa Kamal and Anis Qaimkhani, Sattar trusted him more than the likes of Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hasan or Faisal Subzwari. At one stage, he without the prior knowledge of the Rabita Committee even changed the party’s constitution.

In short, the MQM-P though succeeded in rescuing the party from a no-win situation on August 22 to some respectable position as they won the local government elections in 2016, but it would be wrong if only Sattar or the Rabita Committee try to take the credit. It was a collective effort.

But the MQM-P, for some understandable reasons, could not reorganise the kind of setup the party had in the past minus militancy. The constitutional debate between Sattar and Rabita Committee could have sorted out within the party as they lost their credibility by accusing each other in public.

It was the MQM Rabita Committee Pakistan which renamed the party, removed its founder and elected a new leader, as happened after the post-August 22, 2016, as it enjoyed unprecedented powers unless the party changed its constitution.

Sattar could have rescued the situation by accepting the first four nominations of the committee as none of the names were controversial. At the same time, the Rabita Committee could have retreated from its position, if the convener insisted on one name. Flexibility from either side could have kept the MQM-P united.

Split after split after split would only result in minus-MQM and could confined MQM into PIB Colony and Bahadurabad. The only faction to gain would be the MQM-London which is facing an unofficial ban in Pakistan with its headquarters and offices sealed, while the speeches on its founder have already been banned two years ago by Lahore High Court and they are also not allowed to hold any public meetings. But they are fast using social media and got more active in the last one week following the break up in MQM-P.

How far its narrative will sell in its constituencies in the next few months before the general elections and what direction this group will take would be interesting to watch. Will it call for boycott of polls and ask its supporters to stay at home or will they support some ‘independent candidates’. It is very unlikely that they would support PPP, PML-N, PTI or JI, but they will also not support the MQM-P factions or PSP.

It is also perhaps the last attempt by the MQM-London to try to remain relevant. If they are not able to prove through any of these options, it may be all over for MQM-London for a long time to come. All this can lead to political anarchy in urban Sindh, particularly in Karachi.

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

Twitter: @MazharAbbasGEO