DUBAI: Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan, former governor of Sindh, ponders an active return to the Karachi politics after having been approached by prominent political players as well as stakeholders of Karachi.
The News and Geo sat down in Dubai with the longest-serving Sindh governor to know his future plans and what he thinks of the ongoing turmoil in the Pakistani politics and the city of Karachi, where the level of dissatisfaction has grown more than ever before over the lack of governance and deliverance to meet public expectations.
Dr Ebad didn’t deny when asked that influential figures had asked him to actively take part in Karachi politics and return to Pakistan ahead of and after the 2018 general elections. Ebad didn’t go into detail of what offers and assurances have been given to him but he talked in detail about his time as the longest serving governor of Sindh.
The former Sindh governor is credited for playing a key role in bringing stability and peace to Karachi. Dr Ebad became the interface between the law enforcement agencies and the political powers, who coordinated the execution of the strategy. Dr Ebad said the Karachi operation got full support of the Centre as soon as the PMLN came to power in 2013. He also emphasised that massive infrastructure development is essentially important and simultaneously took Nawaz Sharif’s passion for development as an opportunity.
Dr Ebad said: “In one meeting, I told Mian Sahib that you are not only the Prime Minister of Punjab but Pakistan and that Karachi also deserves a mass transit system. He asked me to meet him again. In the next meeting, he got convinced and immediately approved the Green line, M-9 Motorway and Malir Expressway and the work started. His support for the Karachi operation and development was decisive.”
Dr Ebad resigned in November 2016 as the Sindh governor, bringing to an end the longest ever stint for any governor in the history of Pakistan. He left Karachi immediately for Dubai citing security issues where he has been living ever since, mostly out of the public eye and political affairs of Pakistan, but keenly watching the unfolding developments.
Ideally, Dr Ebad should have landed in London to spend his time with his family but he has chosen not to step inside the UK. His home is a stone throw away from the MQM’s former International Secretariat and 10 minutes drive from Altaf Hussain’s Mill Hill residence.
One of Dr Ebad’s sons is a doctor in the UK, the other a doctorate student at the Imperial College London, a daughter is a neuro-surgeon with the National Health Service (NHS) and the other daughter has first class honours in 3D design.
When asked if he wanted to avoid speculation and needless association with his former colleagues – now operating as MQM London – he confirmed that living in London would not give him the peace of mind that he much needed and would rather generate such assumptions.
As one of the founding members of the MQM, Dr Ebad regrets that the party spiraled into self-destruction after having achieved so much for the people of Karachi and urban cities of Sindh.
Dr Ebad said: “The MQM represented an educated middle-class of the country that became the victim of a fringe minority who infiltrated criminality resulting in several fragmentation of the party."
He regretted that once considered as a national asset, the party turned into a liability in the eyes of the then policymakers.
There used to be a joke circulating that Dr Ebad had the most difficult job in this world of being the governor of one of the world’s most populated and complex cities, who had to always look out to attend the telephone calls of his then leader and the MQM’s powerful supremo Altaf Hussain.
Altaf Hussain would call the governor at odd hours mostly annoyed on the arrest of MQM workers or to get his demands accepted by the Centre. Mostly, these calls would be full of diatribe, but Dr Ebad was known for calmly dealing with the supremo, and convincing him that actions were not against MQM workers, but criminals.
As the Karachi operation intensified under the PML government, a powerful group within the MQM started blaming Dr Ishrat Ebad for failing to stop the state action and aligning with the establishment. The MQM would stop speaking to him from time to time and distanced itself from its own governor. Dr Ebad says he did not cut ties with MQM.
“The MQM left me in April 2015. There is no doubt that I fully supported the Karachi operation against the hardcore criminals but these were from all parties, including nationalist and religious groups, and the operation was not targeted at any single party,” he recalled.
Dr Ebad revealed that he never spoke to Altaf Hussain after April 2015. After Altaf Hussain’s August 2016 infamous speech, he regretted such anti-state speech and said: "Politics should never fall to the extent that anti-state narrative is taken. It is Pakistan that has given us identity and this is what we should teach our generations to come ahead."
Dr Ebad was amongst the first to criticise the launch of Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) and had termed it a joke and says his opinion about the PSP were proven right over the time.
“The PSP was an ambitious experiment that headed for a fall from the start, despite enjoying all the state support. Lessons need to be learnt from the fate of the PSP.” However, he also feels it was a blessing in disguise for MQM as it became “filtered from criminality”.
Moving forward to the recent years, he believes that every party has failed to deliver anything to the Karachiites in the last three years and has created a political vacuum. “Despite PTI having a majority of seats in Karachi, unfortunately, they have failed to meet public expectations.”
Dr Ebad doesn’t pitch himself as the leader of the MQM-Pakistan or any other party but strongly believes that things need to change or things will get out of control. "The current geopolitical situation demands that the political vacuum in Karachi be addressed, otherwise, the Afghan crises and anti-state elements can give rise to instability and create a law and order situation in Karachi.
“If Karachi suffers, the whole state suffers, as Karachi is the economic engine of Pakistan."
He remains in touch with his former colleagues in the MQM-P. He accepts that a small group within the MQM-P may be against him in taking part in politics, whereas the majority is not only in touch with him but also wants him to return and be involved in a leadership role with the MQM-P. Dr Ebad firmly agreed that a robust, reputed, educated and experienced leadership must unite to deliver governance and regain public trust.
He also believes that the current convener of MQM-P, Dr Khalid Maqbool, is an educated face of the party and must be strengthened with experienced people, including Dr Farooq Sattar and Dr Farough Naseem.
As Governor of Sindh, Dr Ishrat Ebad has no regrets as he believes he has performed his duties with utmost sincerity for the state. Dr Ishrat Ebad is, meanwhile, weighing his options.
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