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The Karachi conundrum by D Asghar


The Karachi conundrum by D Asghar
 Posted on: 12/22/2017

Published in Daily Times, December 15th 2017
Karachi, Pakistan’s financial hub and lifeline of the country,witnessed some bizarre jugglery a few weeks ago. The ‘behind the scene engineers’, who get all the credit for re-establishing peace and prosperity there, were in an eerie haste, to cobble an alliance between the two-remaining presumed political stakeholders of the city. As expected, it turned out to be a disaster.

Let’s build the scene with brevity for the sake of readers, sothe context makes some sense. Dr Farooq Sattar of Muttahida Qaumi Movement –Pakistan (MQM-P) and Mustafa Kamal of Pak Sar Zameen Party (PSP) decided to make a huge announcement of a merger cum electoral alliance cum renaming of their parties. All of this was done within so little time, that it seemed both leaders were unsure of what they had in mind. The modalities were still murky,undecided, unsettled yet the two were trying to put a straight face and deliver the message for the ‘greater good of the city’.

Within hours, when Dr Farooq Sattar returned to his digs at the PIB Colony, there was a catastrophic blow back from the rank and file,supporters and voters, all resisting the idea of merging with a party they strongly opposed. The crux of the disagreement was that PSP wanted and still wants to step out of the ‘muhajir’ (migrant) box and MQM-P’s vote bank is solely dependent on it.

Dr Sattar, staged a follow up press conference, the following day and threw Kamal under the bus by questioning his successful launch, his Landcruiser etc. While reiterating that he was under immense pressure, without giving any straight answers as to who was applying pressure on him to merge or form an alliance. After all the mud-slinging, he still extended the olive branch to Kamal.

The ‘minus-one’ projects back fire sooner or later. In the MQM’s case, the person being subtracted is not merely a political leader. He introduced the very concept of the ‘Muhajir’ identity

He used the same age-old trick of resignation and then withdrawing it, that his previous leader used to play. Dr Sattar, reversed his decision after the timely tears of the followers and supporters, and not to forget, the stern orders from his mother. A day and a half later, Kamal stageda rejoinder and fired salvos at Dr Sattar demolishing his position and reducing him to a petty stooge of the holy establishment. This high pitch, high emotion delivery, could only last a couple of hours.

The following weekend was full of funny tweets flying from one end to the other describing the ‘arranged marriage’ and the speedy ‘divorce’ on Twitter. The weekend talk circuits were full of the funny one liners and situational jibes. One of the top-notch journalists of the nation made a startling revelation that the PSP was the brainchild of a former army chief.

This whole subject is so wide, that one write-up cannot even encapsulate the veracities surrounding the matter. However, let’s begin with the idea of the establishment meddling with politics. There is nothing earth shattering here, as it is an open secret. Any and everyone can tell you that establishment’s involvement in politics has always been there. Meddling is not the only issue here, mishandling is also a problem. The idea that by subtracting the main leader of the largest political party of the area, one can still have a smooth sail, is flawed thinking at best.

Unfortunately, the dismantling process and its handling did not go well.Political leaders spend decades of building their ideological base and the idea that two former subordinates will fill that vacuum, did not get much traction.When inquired by journalists, the local Director General (DG) of Sindh Rangers,responded by saying that it was done to avoid any clashes between the factions.Who am I to doubt the respected DG? But if my memory serves me right, these two factions/parties both were the torchbearers of non-violence and never resorted to violence.

Despite their respective shows of take down of each other, an alliance or merger is inevitable. This is the diktat they must follow, to survive, whether they like it or not. The respected DG, has made it crystal clear that their former boss or his affiliates will not be allowed to participate in any political activity, let alone elections.

The original MQM, now termed as MQM-London or (MQM-L) thanks to the ‘free media’, observes a ‘day of martyrs’ by paying respects to their fallen comrades and workers every year. Last week, when the residents decided to go to the graveyard and offer prayers and recite the Holy Quran, Rangers stopped them. This was highly inappropriate and an extremely callous act. At least people should have been allowed to pray and pay their respects, as it is part of our faith. Proper security arrangements could have been taken to avoid any untoward incident, but every citizen has a right to peaceful assembly.

I respectfully disagree with the stance of the DG, as it is not up to the DG to decide who can and cannot participate in the political sphere.It is up to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to make such decisions.Next, as stated above, the leadership cannot be created by the process of novation. The electorate sees and evaluates what is being done to their leadership and their actual party that they have been following for decades.People choose their leaders, based on their affiliations. What is true in the other provinces is applicable here as well.

This ‘minus’ projects backfire sooner or later. The person being subtracted is not merely a political leader. He is the person who introduced the concept of the ‘Muhajir’ identity. By negating one person, who millions follow as their ‘leader’ you are nullifying their existence and this is going to alienate a significant number of people of the largest city of the country.Someone needs to put their thinking cap on, just for once.

The writer is a Pakistani-US mortgage banker. He can be reached at [email protected] and tweets @dasghar


9/18/2018 12:36:06 PM