Increased activity, provocative statements, and the possibility of political big-wigs returning… are things edging towards meaningful Muhajir politics in Karachi, or is this mere noise and fantasy?
The inertia in Karachi’s political scene was interrupted unexpectedly when the former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leaders Wasay Jalil and Dr Nadeem Nusrat announced the formation of a grand alliance of Muhajir political parties of the urban Sindh on a new platform – Voice of Karachi. Their aim, they said, was to build an effective opposition against the Sindh government led by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
“Our chairman, Dr Nadeem Nusrat, has announced his plan to unify all Muhajir political factions on one platform. He has announced that he is prepared to play his role in light of positive developments. I want to announce that we will be returning to Pakistan soon,” Jalil said in a video message released on social media from the United States of America, where he claims to be living in self-imposed exile.
Soon after the statement hit the social media pages, some mainstream electronic media channels included Jalil’s statement in their news bulletins and announced the imminent return of former MQM leaders Haider Abbas Rizvi and Adil Siddiqui to Karachi. MQM-Pakistan leader Faisal Suzbwari also confirmed that the duo has finally returned.
The developments created an impression that something was brewing.
But, just when things seemed to be moving in a particular direction, a few days after Jalil’s statement, Mustafa Kamal, the chairperson of Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) called a press conference to throw cold water on the suggestions of any re-unification. He alleged that Dr Nusrat had close ties with India’s secret intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW). In a carefully crafted press release, the Dr Nusrat-led Voice of Karachi expressed their “disappointment” with Kamal’s “uncalled-for” statement and “urged him to play a constructive role for shared goals”.
“Obviously, we can’t force people to unite. Only those who are willing can and should join us to address the issues of the people living in urban Sindh,” Jalil told The News on Sunday (TNS).
“However, it should be noted that we have received tremendous response from all tiers of political leadership associated with mainstream Muhajir parties.”
Several leaders of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Pak Sarzameen Party told this scribe on the condition of anonymity that Jalil and Nusrat had contacted them lately.
“It was a routine chat… we agreed that Muhajir politics can only see its golden days again if all the factions get united for a shared cause,” disclosed an MQM-Pakistan leader who contested a provincial assembly seat in the recent election on the party ticket.
Jalil, who was previously seen standing staunchly with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement founder even after the infamous August 22 speech – has now completely disassociated himself from the founder’s statement.
“Pakistan is our country. It was founded by our ancestors and any call for its breakup is condemnable. We don’t stand with the infamous speech. Our politics is for the rights of the people. It cannot put at stake the sovereignty of the country.”
The former MQM stalwart said that he had not received any message from any quarters saying that he was “unacceptable to them.” He added, “I can’t disclose the schedule yet but I’m sure that I’ll be arriving in Karachi soon enough to resume political activity, as will Nadeem Nusrat.”
However, Subzwari says, the recent ‘developments’ are no more than “a storm in a tea cup”. He says that the tension will fizzle out soon. He also rules out the possibility of a grand alliance, asserting that Jalil and Dr Nusrat have “no political capital at hand” in the metropolis.
“Haider Abbas Rizvi and Adil Siddiqui have returned after the MQM-P took up their case with the relevant quarters. These leaders are not in contact with Nusrat and Jalil’s Voice of Karachi. Rizvi will soon be resuming his politics as an MQM-Pakistan leader,” he says.
“Linking them with the Voice of Karachi is mere social media speculation. It is important to state that the MQM-P will not be affiliated with any group holding a dubious political or criminal record.”
With no warm welcome expected from the MQM-P, Pak Sarzameen Party and MQM-Afaq, the hypothetical return of Dr Nusrat and Jalil may not bring any substantive change in the city’s political dynamics, says journalist Mazhar Abbas.
“They may have a small following in Karachi but given the lack of an on-ground organisational structure, even their presence won’t bring about a dramatic change,” he notes, “their strong past association with the MQM founder is also a roadblock for their politics in the city. They may have a strong voice on the social media but it is highly unlikely that they will become a serious political force in the near future.”
In an exclusive interview to India’s Public Service Broadcaster, DD News, in New York last year, Jalil had criticised Pakistan’s state institutions and compared the current status of Indian-Occupied Kashmir (IOK) with Balochistan – calling the province “a red zone”.
“The truth is that there is an atmosphere of fear in the country. Those who dare to speak are either killed, jailed or they are charged with so many crimes that they are forced to go abroad. We talk about Kashmir but who is responsible for the current state of the country,” he had said.
In an interview to the Indian ANI, Dr Nusrat had accused the state of Pakistan of supporting “extrajudicial killings” and “harbouring global terrorist groups”.
On account of Jalil and Dr Nusrat’s scathing criticism of the Pakistani state institutions in their interview to the Indian media, activist Samar Abbas says there is apparently “no immediate need for the powers [that be] to give a clean chit to Jalil and Nusrat”.
“The hullabaloo is based mostly on some fantasies that are far [removed] from reality,” he adds.
The writer is a human rights reporter based in Karachi. He covers conflict, environment and culture