The politics of MQM

September 11, 2016

It is difficult to predict the future of the newly-founded MQM Pakistan. Experts share their analyses

The politics of MQM

The event of August 22, deemed to be a suicide attack on the MQM by its own leader, Altaf Hussain, has proved to be a blessing in disguise for some stalwarts of the party. Political analysts believe that after the murder of Azeem Ahmed Tariq, the slain Chairman of the MQM, Dr Farooq Sattar was considered as the next most important leader of the MQM.

Post August 22 saga, he certainly has emerged as the smartest politician who handled the entire crisis very wisely.

He brought the situation under control within 24 hours while addressing a crowded press conference on August 23 at the Karachi Press Club (KPC). He stated that the MQM Pakistan has disassociated itself from Altaf Hussain’s anti-state statement and that then onwards there will be no more interference of London in their decisions. At another talk with the media on August 27 at his residence, he disassociated the MQM Pakistan from Altaf Hussain.

From August 23 to September 7, the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) Chairman, Mustafa Kamal, too has held six press conferences. In every press talk, he has targeted Dr Farooq Sattar, claiming that he is staging a drama and the party would still be run by Altaf Hussain. It is interesting that the only demand of the former mayor of Karachi, when he landed in Karachi on March 3, was to exclude Altaf Hussain from the MQM. He has been calling Hussain "an agent of the Indian intelligence agency and a traitor".

"It was an exceptional step that has never happened in the history of Pakistan. We have amended the party’s constitution and a resolution [to this effect] was presented in the National Assembly. We have practically kept the party intact. And when the time comes, further decisions will give more clarity. In this regard, we want genuine acceptance and on the basis of that need space as well," says Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hasan, leader of the opposition in Sindh Assembly and a close confidante of Dr Farooq Sattar.

Senior journalist and analyst, Mazhar Abbas, believes the language of Altaf Hussain in various public addresses caused a huge damage to the party. "Despite several intimations given [to him] by several senior leaders of the MQM, he (Altaf Hussain) was continuously making inflammatory remarks against army chief, DG ISI and DG Rangers and August 22 speech proved to be the last nail in the coffin."

Read also: A bad start

When MQM Pakistan omitted the name of Altaf Hussain as a chief, some leaders of MQM London issued a statement. Later, the MQM submitted a resolution in the National Assembly against the derogatory remarks made by Hussain. "We will not accept minus one formula. Altaf Hussain is MQM and MQM is Altaf Hussain. We will not accept any resolution in NA," a prominent MQM London leader, Wasay Jaleel, stated on Twitter.

Political commentators believe there is no other alternative for London other than to support MQM Pakistan. London needs Karachi for various reasons, including finances.

Interestingly, the same Wasay Jaleel supported and ran a campaign on Twitter for MQM candidate, Waseem Ahmed, for PS-127.

Political commentators believe there is no other alternative for London other than to support MQM Pakistan. London needs Karachi for various reasons, including finances.

"MQM Pakistan is playing intelligently, without leaving any room for it to be bracketed with Altaf Hussain in the eyes of power corridors," says Abbas.

Read also: "It’s a window of opportunity for the MQM to redefine its politics"

There is a difference of opinion over the banning of MQM. Political parties, including the ruling PPP, PTI and PML-N are against outlawing of MQM. Information Minister, Pervaiz Rasheed, has opposed the idea of banning the party. Similarly, there is also a difference of opinion in the security apparatus on this issue.

Some ‘circles’ believe the MQM is a fascist organisation while others hold that it is an acknowledged political entity having the mandate of Karachiites. These circles also believe that Karachi needs the MQM to counter the militants of banned outfits.

The million-dollar question is: whether the emergence of Dr Farooq Sattar as central leader of MQM Pakistan is a genuine move or an attempt to buy time to dilute the current situation? In the past, when MQM Chairman Azeem Ahmed Tariq resurfaced in December 1992, Altaf Hussain disassociated himself from the MQM and handed over the party command to Tariq. Four months later, on May 1, 1993, Azeem Ahmed Tariq was murdered at his home and Hussain again resumed the command.

Altaf Hussain fled to the UK in May 1992 before the military operation. There was a clear directive from the party high-command to all the office-bearers and workers of MQM to go underground. The organisation encountered similar backlash during the 1996 operation. Like today, there was a minus-Altaf demand but he struck back vigorously.

Therefore, some sections believe that Altaf Hussain will break his silence at an appropriate time and will again resume the party command.


At the time of operations in 1992 and 1996, Altaf Hussain was in his early 40s and had an iron grip over the party structure. Pro-active, he was in direct contact with the unit and sector level set-up of the party. That communication line has been ruptured since long, creating a vacuum of information about the ground situation. This is a primary reason why there was no policy for the party workers about the Rangers-led operation that started in September 2013. Hundreds of workers were arrested and a few were killed during detention and alleged encounters.

Afaq Ahmed and Amir Khan who were responsible to run the core structure of the organisation had parted ways and formed another break-away faction. Dozens of legislators and hundreds of party workers joined the MQM-Haqiqi. During the 1990s, there was no Pakistan and London coordination/central committee and there were no divisions within party ranks. Instead of minting money from various sources for personal gains, legislators and office-bearers were extremely loyal to Altaf Hussain. That allegiance provided him the strength to re-establish and re-structure the MQM in the late 1990s, making a successful and impressive comeback.

Mustafa Kamal alleges that like Azeem Ahmed Tariq, the life of Dr Farooq Sattar is under serious threat. Once again, the scenario is very different. There was no revolt against Dr Farooq Sattar when he switched-off the London line. Instead of breaking ties with him, MNAs and MPAs are supporting him this time.

Recently speaking in a talk show, senior MQM leader Faisal Sabzwari announced his return to Pakistan. "I was, I am and I will remain in MQM. I’ll be in Pakistan before Eidul Azha and will work with Farooq bhai," he stated.

Despite all odds, MNAs, Senators, MPAs and office-bearers are reluctant to join the PSP. They believe Kamal is very authoritarian like his former chief. Joining the PSP means going ‘from the frying pan into the fire.’ There is also a feeling that he Kamal has not been able to achieve what he was aiming to during the six months since his arrival.

The disconnection of Altaf Hussain from the MQM Pakistan is creating space for Mohajir Qaumi Movement Chairman, Afaq Ahmed. There were some reports that he didn’t want to accept Altaf Hussain as his leader and it was the main point of contention in joining the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. That hurdle is technically removed. So, will he join back?

Read also: Editorial 

Replying to a question, Khawaja Izhar-ul-Hasan says, "Such decisions will not be taken by the Coordination Committee solely. All the office-bearers of the party will be consulted and if the entire party agrees, a procedure will be laid down. Right now, there is no such thing under consideration."

Apparently, things are going in Farooq Sattar’s favour. Altaf Hussain left the country in 1992. A child who was born at that time is 24 years old today. He is not that much influenced by the ideology of his self-exiled leader. For some experts, Altaf Hussain is an ideologue of the mohajir identity. And, MQM Pakistan is continuing the same ideology. With the support of other political players, Farooq Sattar is toiling hard to be another torch-bearer of the mohajir identity.

Senior journalist Mubashir Zaidi believes, "there is no choice, neither for Farooq Sattar nor for the military establishment. Therefore, let Farooq Sattar perform."

"I am observing the situation. If MQM Pakistan is given the space to continue its political activities, I will come back and join it, otherwise, I will stay here," says an important leader of the MQM, who is staying away from Pakistan for several months.

The by-election of National Assembly seat NA-255 will be a litmus test for the MQM Pakistan and PSP. Asif Hasnain mysteriously resigned from the National Assembly seat and joined the Mustafa Kamal bandwagon. Prior to this move, it was reported that Sindh Rangers picked him up from Karachi Airport when he was leaving for Islamabad. A day later, Hasnain was released and he joined PSP.

According to Mubashir Zaidi, if MQM London does not contest the next elections, the mohajir vote will go to the MQM Pakistan. "Who will survive? MQM London, MQM Pakistan or PSP? Eventually, 2018 General Election will determine the fate," concludes Zaidi.

The politics of MQM