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Karachi

August 16, 2018

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Has Haqiqi become irrelevant to Karachi’s politics?

MQM-Haqiqi Chairman, Afaq Ahmed addresses media persons regarding resignation from party chairmanship, at his residency in Karachi on July 27, 2018.

After suffering a humiliating defeat in the July 25 general polls, Afaq Ahmed, chairman of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement -- commonly known as Haqiqi, a title it no longer uses – resigned from the position on July 27 but took his resignation back a few days later.

Haqiqi has never performed well except in the 2002 general polls when it managed to win two seats – one national and one Sindh Assembly – from Landhi, a former stronghold of the party.

However, it fielded several candidates in various Mohajir-populated constituencies of the city in last month’s general elections but performed abysmally and managed to bag a mere total of 21,521 votes, according to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s statistics. Ahmed himself ranked fifth in the race of NA-240, a National Assembly constituency comprising Landhi, by securing just over 14,000 votes.

After Ahmed’s announcement to step down from the party’s headship, supporters, especially relatives of slain workers, requested Ahmed at press conferences to withdraw his decision.

On August 1, a worker even tried to commit suicide outside his residence against the decision. On August 13 Ahmed announced he had taken his resignation back “on the insistence of relatives of the party’s martyrs” and formed a five-member organising committee to restructure the party.

But all these developments related to Haqiqi did not get any attention from Karachi’s political circles or from among the Mohajir community. Political analysts believe that after a quarter of a century, Haqiqi has become irrelevant to today’s politics of the metropolis.

Rise and fall of Haqiqi

In 1992, the government of the time had launched a military operation against the MQM after the alleged involvement of its men in the abduction and torture of a serving army official. Two key MQM leaders – Afaq Ahmed and Aamir Khan – formed a dissident group, the MQM-Haqiqi, which grew in strength because of the operation.

At the time, many of the party’s key district heads and sitting MNAs and MPAs had joined Haqiqi, and the areas of Landhi, Malir, Shah Faisal Colony, Lines Areas and some pockets in Liaquatabad and New Karachi had fallen completely under their control. The MQM was present in these areas, but on the organisational front, the party had no influence there and these remained no-go areas for them until 2003. Similarly, the MQM made most of the city falling under its influence no-go areas for the MQM-H. Hundreds of activists and supporters were killed in violent clashes between the two factions.

However the Haqiqi faction has been losing strength since 2003, when the MQM, after supporting General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s military regime, used government machinery against its rival faction, expelling it from its strongholds and putting the two key leaders, Ahmed and Khan, behind bars. Then a split occurred within Haqiqi after differences developed between Ahmed and Khan while they were in prison, causing violent clashes between their supporters. Khan along with his colleagues rejoined the MQM-Pakistan in May 2011 and has been elevated to position of a central leader of the MQM-P.

Insignificant Haqiqi

Analysts say Haqiqi has now become irrelevant to the city’s politics, which has changed significantly owing to the Rangers-led operation, changing demographics of the city, the MQM-P’s inner crisis and current delimitations.

Haqiqi has significantly lost its strength because before the operation started in September 2013, their workers had stayed underground for around a decade, and the return of Khan, along with his team, to the MQM-Pakistan too has affected it badly, they believe.

Although the ongoing Rangers-led operation provided a safe environment in the 2015 local government polls and 2018 general elections, Haqiqi could not win a single seat in the areas it once dominated, such as Landhi and Lines Area.

Ahmed Yusuf, a journalist who covers political groups extensively, said Haqiqi had been struggling with constructing a robust organisation but that had not happened. “It does not have funding needed to maintain a presence across the city. Its future is tied to merging with one of the larger groups – MQM-Pakistan for example -- so as to exert more spatial influence,” he told The News. “Merger suggestions have done the rounds recently too; the question is with whom and why.”

“Honestly, I had higher expectations from Haqiqi but I think Ahmed has not either tried or has been trying to play a hopelessly long wait and see game,” said Obed Pasha, a political analyst who studies Karachi politics. “This is just a long way of saying that Haqiqi is finished. Mustafa Kamal [of the Pak Sarzameen Party] is playing the pro-establishment role that Afaq and Khan had played in the 1990s and even he could not attract any votes.”

Pasha, who teaches at Cleveland State University, said that the time of Mohajir politics was already meeting its end because of the changing demographics, a huge influx of people from all over Pakistan and the improving socio-economic situation. “The percentage of the core Mohajir voters is declining and still aligned with [Altaf] Hussain as we saw with the relatively low turnout in the polls. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf got all the lower-middle and upper class Mohajir votes,” he said.

“Karachi residents are generally tired of militant politics in the city due to the improving economy.”

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