HYDERABAD: Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain said on Monday that if his party is elected to power, it will initiate drastic reforms to undo the “atrocities” that poor and marginalised people have had to deal with in recent years.
Speaking at a rally held in Mirpurkhas to mark the party’s 29th founding day, Altaf also promised that should the MQM win the upcoming elections, equal citizenship status would be granted to expatriates. “If the parliament and judiciary don’t consider overseas Pakistanis to be equal citizens, the MQM will bring a constitutional amendment to give them equal status.”
Altaf also showered praise on the party’s leaders and founding members, thanking them for remaining steadfast even though they have faced persecution, imprisonment and exile over the last three decades. “I would also like to pay tribute to the martyrs who laid down their lives for the movement and those who joined us later.”
He announced that his party wants to allot 50 per cent of the seats in the legislatures to women and a similar percentage in jobs in government and semi-government organisations. Altaf then asked his party to build a shelter home for the girls who face death threats in incidents of karo kari.
Altaf also vowed to make education free of cost up to the Matric level. He said that free healthcare would be provided to those who can’t afford the cost of treating even the most basic diseases. “Nobody should die because they don’t have money to pay the doctor or buy medicines.”
He also pledged to provide people who cannot afford good lawyers access to justice. “The MQM government will not put thieves, dacoits, embezzlers and those who accepted bribes in prison. They will be hanged in public.”
Explaining how his party will cope with the financial crisis and foreign debt, Altaf said the MQM will do this by punishing people who have acquired a vast amount of wealth through corruption. He said their assets will be sold to repay debt and build hospitals as well as educational institutions. “Our slogan will be ‘no representation without taxation’,” he said, reiterating his commitment to tax the rich land owners.
MQM’s deputy convener, Farooq Sattar, asserted that the next provincial chief minister will be from his party. “If we come to power, we will end the system which is making poor people poorer and rich people even wealthier.” He said the MQM will transform Mirpurkhas, Umerkot and Thar into modern and developed cities by harnessing the coal resources in Thar.
Sattar asked Sindhis to give the MQM a chance too. He, however, skirted around the issue of the local government system, saying that his party believes that democracy will only flourish when it is present at the district, town and union council levels.
Addressing his first public meeting after joining the MQM, former PPP leader Nabeel Gabol said he believes that only Altaf can fulfill the dreams of Zulfikar Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto. Gabol said he felt amazed to see the people from all the ethnic groups attending the rally. “Altaf is the only leader in Pakistan who represents oppressed people.” Gabol said he will take the MQM’s message to all parts of Sindh. He expressed hope that a PPP leader of Mirpurkhas, former MNA Pir Atab Shah Gilani, would take his lead and join the MQM soon.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2013.