Altaf Hussain’s arrest and MQM’s future

June 4, 2014

By Ahsan Waheed
ZONEASIA-PK

Altaf Hussain ArrestedMQM’s self exiled (and who later acquired British citizenship) Chief, Altaf Hussain was arrested on the morning of 3rd June 2014. This arrest may not have been much of a surprise for either the MQM leader or the senior party workers. In fact,  the entire top leadership must have been aware of this imminent arrest and therefore they were desperately trying to obtain a Pakistani passport and CNIC (Identity Card).

What is surprising is how the passport process was delayed despite enormous pressure by the local MQM leadership – ‘The Mr Altaf Hussain’ did not get the passport in time.

Pakistan government must have been told by the British government to cooperate in this regard otherwise if by some chance Mr Hussain managed to reach Pakistan on his UK passport, Pakistan government would be bound to hand him over to the UK authorities and in turn causing massive unrest in Pakistan, especially Karachi. Evidence of which could be seen when the already prepared MQM party was able to shutdown Karachi, burn twelve buses and resort to aerial firing in various areas of the metropolitan city.

Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan and leader of ruling political party, PML-N, was quick to send out notification to all ministers belonging to his party not to give any irresponsible statements in this regard. PTI chief has surprisingly shown solidarity with MQM because till last year PTI chief Imran Khan was visiting UK with evidence against MQM leader and MQM leader was giving violent statements in his notorious telephonic political rallies.Additionally, the crackdown operation in Karachi against the militant elements – especially those involved in target killings – may have also been part of this “Great (Britain) Game” to minimize the repercussions of post arrest problems.

MQM will have to wait and see what becomes of their chief who currently has been arrested on money laundering charges. But there is also the ongoing investigation of the murder of an ex-MQM senior leader Dr Imran Farouq, who was brutally murdered in London outside his house. Britain’s Scotland Yard has probably already gained enough evidence to bring the murder investigation to its close.

If the MQM leader does get convicted in either or both the cases then as a party it will have to seriously strive and redesign its operation tactics to ensure survival as a major political party in Karachi. At the moment none of the top leaders of MQM possess the ability to lead the party the way Altaf Hussain managed to. Also will Altaf Hussain, if convicted, also bring down other MQM leaders and senior party members? If he does then that would surely mark the end of MQM’s legacy. Chances are that Altaf will not do something like this, at least not immediately, as his own  survival for now depends solely on the support from his party’s top tier.

But what if the senior party members out of fear of being exposed try to silence Altaf Hussain while in UK prison? This would suit MQM senior  leadership on multiple fronts; Altaf Hussain out of the scene and out of MQM, the party can stop being a laughing stock and center of controversies due to irresponsible statements made by their party chief. Senior MQM leadership will remain safe from being exposed by their chief,  MQM’s senior leadership will be able to portray Altaf as a “martyr”, a “hero”; and cash-in on his ‘legacy’ and continue to operate their party after mutually electing a new party chief. Of course with Altaf gone, there will be power struggle within the party and we may see more exterminations of senior MQM leaders for which of course MQM’s “surviving” senior leadership will blame the establishment and agencies for political murders.

Amidst all these possibilities could we be looking at a major political and power shift in Karachi? If so will it create a vacuum that will allow other players like PTI, ANP and PPP to come forward? Will we see an end to Karachi’s miseries? Would Karachi once again regain its lost glory and become a city full of life that it once was? Only time will tell but it seems that finally things have started moving in the right direction.


In search of an enemy

May 14, 2014

Threatens PakistanFOR PAKISTAN

We are constantly worried about the security of our country. Media (national and international) has made us paranoid. Based on the information fed to us through various sources (and partially based on complete lack of knowledge regarding the issue), we convince ourselves of who are our enemies and who are our friends. We form opinions in our minds and then without verification we preach our beliefs and opinions to others (usually those who have even less intellect than ourselves). This has led our mass hysteria to a national level. We have become delusional and lost the ability to think and analyze. I say this not to criticize myself or anyone else who reads this article, my objective is to come up with a way to reprogram our minds so that we can empty all the junk that lies in our heads and blocks our minds from receiving unbiased information and process the information we receive in a more critical manner so that we can have individuality and originality of thought.

Let’s first try to understand the two words that we use so often without actually realizing their true meaning. Then we will also try and learn few other words that lie between these two words, as nothing is black and white in this world (Thank God for that).

Friend:

  • a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.
  • A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
  • One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement
  • a person known well to another and regarded with liking, affection, and loyalty; an intimate

Enemy:

  • a person who is actively opposed or hostile to someone or something
  • One who feels hatred toward, intends injury to, or opposes the interests of another
  • Something destructive or injurious in its effects

Majority of us feel that our country, Pakistan, is being attacked by forces which are against Islam, against the  existence of a free Pakistan and against the Islamic nuclear weapons that we possess (for peaceful purposes only of course). We also believe that the whole world is against us and want to destroy us because… because… WHAT? Rest of the world does not give a damn about your existence. We give ourselves too much importance… for no reason. Some of us believe that we are the responsible for Islam’s existence and that we have to fight for every Muslim all around the world.

Most countries don’t care about other countries irrespective of their religion, ethnicity, social and cultural norms. Countries interact with each other when they see economic, cultural or social gains to be achieved. European Union was formed to allow better and easier trade between European countries. It was a struggle for the EU. There were major differences between the countries. Eastern European countries were economically and socially backward. Western European countries were richer, more technically advanced and more integrated with rest of the world. Huge social and economic difficulties were seen and are still being addressed. Germany is rethinking its EU membership and might even exit the EU as it sees little to be gained.

South Asian countries comprise of multiple ethnicity, religions and faiths, yet they are forming trade relations with each other. They all have their share of concerns and insecurities but yet they continue to function.

Other Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait treat you the worst. They will give more respect to an American, Australian or A Brit than they would to a “Pakistani Muslim brother”. You being a Pakistani can’t even marry an Arab girl despite the fact that you have the same religion. You are only good to them as a worker! But that is again nothing to complain about. At least they are clear about what kind of relationship they want and expect from other countries.

Coming back to us and our “enemies”, we should try and look inwards. We should  try to learn the meaning of “friend” and then realize that when we are forming a national foreign policy, we are not trying to make “friends” nor are we trying build an extended family “brother”. National foreign policy is about what and how much we can gain by cooperating with another country. We don’t have to be concerned what their religion is (because we are not going to marry their country), we need be alarmed by  their culture difference (they are they and we are we) and we must not impose our religion and beliefs on other countries or even on people of different beliefs who are our fellow citizens.

Other countries don’t want to destroy your religion just for the heck of it. Its what kind of a message we send out to other nations around the world. Right now we are sending out a message of hate and intolerance. We are telling rest of the world that their religion is wrong, their social values are wrong and unless they all convert to Islam we will come and kill you… just like we are killing our own fellow citizens in Pakistan!

So lets make a list of what qualities and traits an enemy of pakistan must possess to actually qualify as an enemy:

  • Does he have to be a non-Muslim (also unacceptable Muslim sects)?
  • Does he have to be a Jew or a Hindu?
  • Are all Americans anti-Pakistan?
  • … and you can think up add more enemy traits to this list.

What we need to realize is that Pakistan does not have any enemies as such, except for India which makes sense because first Muslims invaded their territory, then we destroyed their temples and then ruled them till the British took over India. Then we demanded a separate country and India was divided to form Pakistan. So they have a reason to hate us but even that can be handled. Had the British resolved the Kashmir dispute before partition of 1947, then our  relations with India could have been much better.

But our real enemies are people from our own country who claim to be saviors of Pakistan yet they leave no opportunity to eat it hollow like a termite. People who have formed political parties based either on family dynasties or ethnicity. For decades Pakistan is being ruled by corrupt civil and military leaders. In Balochistan, Sardars have suppressed the Balochi people and denied them of basic rights like health care, education and right to live a free life. In Sindh vadeera culture still exists and the common people live like slaves. Politco-Ethnic violence based on territorial claims by drugs and land mafia has destroyed the beautiful city of Karachi. Punjab has its own set of problems, few ultra-rich corrupt political families own majority of large businesses dominate the political scene and have been taking turns ruling the masses. Northern Areas still remain in the grip of violence. No government in paid enough attention to setup development projects and provide employment to the youth. Militant religious groups dominate the region and the area remains a constant conflict zone.

If Pakistan stops thinking of its National Foreign Policy as a matter of honour and service to Islam and all other Muslim countries (Who don’t give a dash about us), than we can quickly move forward in a positive direction. We don’t have to make friends, we don’t have to make enemies… we just need to make some strategic allies that will help us become a stronger and more stable country that will seem less threatening to rest of the world.


London Calling

July 16, 2013

By Ahsan Waheed
ZoneAsia-Pk

BBC 2 NEWSNIGHT program on July 10th anchored by Jeremy Archer included a segment on the MQM leader Altaf Hussain. This segment was brilliantly presented by Owen Benet – Jones. The short but comprehensive presentation focused on the refuge or sanctuary given to Mr Altaf Hussain for more than two decades in Britain during which period he had acquired British nationality. The allegations against Mr Hussain included the fact that from a refuge in North London he was controlling a most feared political organization in Pakistan, that he was possibly involved in over 30 murders and that without a doubt he was the brains as well as the brawn behind the MQM. The September 16, 2010 brutal murder of an MQM leader outside his home in London was described – including the arrest of two men in Pakistan who were part of the investigation. The latest twist in the investigation was the arrest of an associate of the MQM leader at a London airport and the very recent raids on the offices and residences of Mr Hussain in London in which documents and a total of 350000 British pounds in cash were discovered and so far remain unexplained.

Snippets from Mr Hussain’s frequent prolonged telephone addresses were screened to give an idea of the threats, incitements and abuse hurled by him including threats to The UK government after the raids on his facilities and his ‘headquarters’ on Edgeware Road in London. The question asked was whether there was any breach of British law if he was indeed using his base in London to incite violence besides exercising total control over his organization in Pakistan.

A British Barrister Mr Bajwa was interviewed and he stated that the threats could be interpreted as incitement to violence. The main MQM leader in Pakistan, Mr Farooq Sattar, completely denied such a possibility even rejecting the actual footage shown of Mr Hussain’s telephonic addresses. The presenter mentioned that MQM members asked to comment had refused – possibly fearful of the consequences. Many MQM leaders and workers have been murdered in the past and hundreds of workers have lost their lives in mysterious street violence. One former MQM member Naim Ahmed did speak out and stated clearly that the MQM was a party of militants and mafias that acted on orders ‘from London’ and that over 80% of the terrorists involved in violence in Karachi were from the MQM and that more than 20 police personnel had been killed to make sure that no one agreed to investigate or give evidence. The result was zero convictions and hardly any arrests.

It was pointed out in the presentation that Mr Hussain remained a charismatic and eccentric leader but that it was fear that kept people in line. His visitors in London included Pakistani political leaders and officials. Apparently MQM personnel could get British visas without difficulty possibly because of a letter written to the British authorities after 911 offering HUMINT services inside Pakistan in support of the war on terror. The British possibly saw MQM influence as protection against ‘jihadis’ and extremists. Britain was however under pressure to put Mr Hussain on trial. The BBC presentation included a personal appearance by Mr Farooq Sattar who stoutly denied all the allegations, insinuations and facts presented. He did not comment on the possibility of money laundering and the investigation into Mr Imran Farooq’s murder on the grounds that these were ongoing event legal aspects to these issues and that there were legal issues involved.


Area 14/8: The Upside to Divisive Power-play

May 23, 2013

By Z. FEROZE
Area 14/8

While western scholars deem it necessary to permit a revolution in Pakistan, the question of whether or not we require a messiah has often boggled the intelligentsia. While nationalism and tradition hailed in Balochistan and Punjab respectively, a ghastly series of repercussions garnered results such as the killing of PTI leader Zahra Shahid Hussain in Sindh. Common sense dictates that Sindh is desperately in need for a political messiah to alleviate the town in lieu of target killings, ethnic violence harboring separatism and a scraped social fabric and security. The general disputation among the intelligentsia regarding the failing political situation of Karachi, the hub of the most influential political party in Sindh, has been to chalk out the cause and effect of the town’s social tumult. Without doubt, MQM is an important power-player that has repatriated ethnic devises and fuelled ethnocentrism of the Muhajir, directly as well as indirectly. Reduced to victimized manipulation, the people of Karachi have fixated on this politics of division and extortion. With an alarming number of people losing their lives to a lack of social security, the solution to a monochromatic political representation of Karachi has been wishy-washy. The Election of 2013, however, reworked the political dynamics of Karachi and managed to considerably compromise the strain exacted by the MQM influence on the region.

Read more…


Spearhead Analysis: Pakistan’s dance with the democracy

May 10, 2013

By Zoon Ahmad Khan, Enum Naseer & Sarah Eleazar
Research Analysts, Spearhead Research – Pakistan

As the Pakistani voter heads for the polling station tomorrow, on May 11, 2013, Pakistan will for the first time in history, allow an elected government to complete its tenure. Despite the multiple and enormous challenges it faces, the nation sees itself united and hopeful for strong stable years to come and democracy to mature. The transition has not been an easy one.

The nation has spent a considerable time under military dictatorships and is currently struggling to keep multiple crises at bay. While rooting for the ideals of democracy has its place and will go a long way in paving way for robust and independent institutions, a true understanding of the metamorphosis is essential in order to internalize democratic values.

Following is an analysis of political discourse, security dilemmas and the economic backdrop behind each election conducted in the country so far. With the aim that reading trends and appreciating lessons from history will help create a more informed opinion.

Read more…


ANP: Never say die!

May 10, 2013

By Benazir Shah
ZoneAsia-Pk

HE’S LOST 819 OF HIS PARTY COLLEAGUES TO TERRORISM, AND SURVIVED AN ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT IN 2008. WE RECENTLY SPOKE WITH ASFANDYAR WALI KHAN, CHIEF OF THE TALIBAN-THREATENED AWAMI NATIONAL PARTY, WHICH GOVERNED KHYBER-PAKHTUNKHWA PROVINCE UNTIL MARCH, ABOUT SATURDAY’S ELECTIONS AND MORE. EXCERPTS:

The ANP has been mercilessly attacked by the Taliban in the run-up to the elections. As a result your party has been unable to campaign freely. At any point, did you consider not participating in the May 11 polls?

In the last four years, our party has lost a total of 819 workers. Why are we being targeted? Simple: [the Pakistani Taliban] want to keep us out of the elections. For Pakistan these are not just any elections, the new Parliament will have to deal with 2014, when NATO and ISAF forces withdraw from the region. When 2014 comes around, they do not want liberal people to be in the government. These forces want a free hand to do whatever they want, but they will not keep us out. This is not just a war between ANP and the Taliban or Asfandyar Wali and [Taliban kingpin] Hakimullah Mehsud, this is a war between two mindsets. The liberal, progressive, and democratic are on one side. On the other end are those who ruled Afghanistan and later surfaced in Swat. If we back off now, we let them win. The more the elections are delayed, the more bloodshed there will be. It is not going to get any better.

How is your party campaigning?

We cannot run advertisements like the other parties. We just don’t have that kind of money. It is common knowledge how much these [cable news] channels charge for broadcasting ads. Our local workers move door to door. The day Haroon and Ghulam Ahmed Bilour were attacked in Peshawar [on April 16], we lost 17 workers. The very next day pamphlets were distributed in the city warning people not to hoist any flags of the ANP or display its posters and stickers. And the same evening in Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Swabi, and Mardan our party circulated thousands of stickers. The stickers had the party’s [electoral] symbol on it, which is the lantern, and a slogan, “Country or Coffin.”

Your partner parties the Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan Peoples Party have also been specifically targeted by the Taliban.

There is some misunderstanding. ANP has not gone into an electoral alliance with the MQM. PPP, MQM, and ANP have borne the brunt of terrorist attacks. We thought that if we got together to raise our voice against the bloodshed, the impact would be different. But let me clarify, again, that this is not an electoral alliance. It might not help the situation, but the three of us share an enemy. The people of Pakistan had been fooled for a very long time in believing that Karachi is the turf of the MQM and ANP. Now at least everyone knows the truth.

Is it accurate to say that the bloodshed in Karachi over the past five years is a result of turf wars among militias affiliated with the ANP, MQM, and PPP?

If I had a Pakhtun militant wing in Karachi, would I be targeted the way I am today? Please do not push us to the wall. That is my biggest fear. Do not push us to a situation where we decide to defend ourselves. The day we start defending ourselves, things are going to take a very ugly turn! If I had a militant wing in Karachi, I don’t think anyone would have had the guts to attack me.

‘The true referee of the electoral showdown is Hakimullah Mehsud.’

Will election results accurately reflect voters’ choice?

Let me make it very clear, ANP has been shoved into a wrestling ring with its hands tied. The opponents stand across from us and their hands are free. Until now, we were under the impression that the referee for these elections was the chief of the Election Commission of Pakistan, Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim. I have the utmost respect for him. But the true referee of the electoral showdown is Hakimullah Mehsud. Look at his statements, he’s “allowed” Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Fazl), Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf to hold public rallies, and he’s not “permitted” ANP, MQM or PPP to do the same. Is this his decision to make? Mehsud has clearly defined his friends and his foes.

After the attack on Haroon Bilour, you wrote to the Election Commission demanding more security. What became of that?

Copies of the letter were also sent to the president, the caretaker prime minister, and to the chief justice. Nine days lapsed and nothing happened. There wasn’t a word from the ECP. On the 10th day, Ebrahim showed up on television claiming he never received any such letter. That is the last I heard of that. The Election Commission is telling us to make our own security arrangements. Use your own untrained security guards, they say. Now, if these untrained security guards are enough to guard me and my candidates, then they must be capable of also guarding the country? The government took my security away in a very awkward manner, at 9:30 p.m. one night, without even informing me. The security that had been provided to me consisted of one policeman and four guards. The Election Commission denies it ordered it, but then there is written evidence proving it requested all security be withdrawn.

Will you accept the election results without any hesitation?

No, that will depend. It will depend on the results and how things shape up. As far as electoral alliances are concerned, it is still too early to decide that. Let me repeat, since this is a war between two mindsets, I will not go for an alliance with a party which belongs to the other camp. Let’s not name anyone. However, I would like to add that of late there is a new phenomenon arising before the elections. A few days ago, two Jamaat-e-Islami workers were caught with 90,000 fake ballot papers. Now new reports are emerging-I am still trying to confirm them-that a Jamaat aspirant’s house was raided and another 30,000 to 35,000 bogus ballot papers have been recovered. If these things start developing then there will be a big question mark on the upcoming elections.

What should be the chief priority of the next elected government?

Terrorism needs to be addressed immediately. One has to take control of the field. Right now, the ownership of the field is being challenged. We can continue to fight among ourselves about what we may want to plant in the field, but first we must own it.


ELECTION WATCHES

April 5, 2013

By Ghalib Sultan

The Caretakers are in and have started caretaking. The Election Commission under the wise Chief Election Commissioner has swung into action and is working round the clock to clear up all the preparatory work before Election Day. The military and the judiciary are supporting the process staying strictly within their own domains. The media is in frenzy as it keeps pace with all the developments, analyzes events and presents viewers with debates and predictions of the likely outcome. Except for pessimists who always see a half empty glass everyone thinks the elections will be on schedule and that they will be free and fair with the military completely neutral. The stage is set for the dynamics of the elections to play out and the ball is in the courts of the political parties and the Election Commission and of course the Caretakers.

That there is much outside interest is evident from the flurry of diplomatic activity now in progress as preparations are made to monitor the election process and gain as much insight as possible into possible scenarios. The British made waves by releasing a survey that has almost 95% percent of the Pakistanis surveyed saying that they thought their country was headed in the wrong direction. Around 70% view the Army, the Judiciary, the Media and the Religious segments favorably and an equal percentage seems to have negative views of the Federal and Provincial governments and the National and Provincial assemblies. Nearly 38% favor Sharia Law over democracy according to the survey. Obviously the desire is for change that leads to good governance after the elections.

The US Embassy under the new Ambassador is reaching out to the various Baloch groups, the ANP, the ‘establishment’, media and civil society as well as NGO’s. Almost 15 NGO’s may be engaged to monitor the conduct and transparency of the Elections. The first step will probably be an assessment of the political parties-their current standings and prospects-so that these can be updated as the process moves forward. USAID under its Chief Mr Raju Shah is already in contact with the ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) to help with funds and technical assistance in the training of polling staff, as well as ECP staff and journalists and HRCP( Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) representatives in places like Multan, Sheikhupura, Quetta and Khairpur-one such program was organized in Sunfort Hotel Lahore.

The British High Commission has a cell in its political division dedicated to the Election monitoring process. An organization called the Church World Services (CWS) will be closely monitoring the political situation and the actual elections. It will probably finance workshops to train journalists, staff and segments of civil society and link up with NGO’s for monitoring and compilation of results. A senior journalist from Punjab may be used to coordinate on their behalf to avoid allegations of interference. There seems to be much interest and interaction with the MQM probably because the MQM leader is in exile in London and is a British citizen. The MQM local leadership has indicated to British diplomats in contact with them that they think the British government is backing the PPP as well as pressurizing the MQM leader in London-and they cited the raid on an MQM facility in London as an example. MQM has reportedly asked the British to help with the situation in Karachi and Sind as various intelligence agencies and the PPP were tarnishing their image. An invitation to the British High Commissioner to visit MQM Headquarters was regretted as it could send the wrong signals but apparently an MQM sponsored Karachi based NGO-Ehsaas Foundation and Raassta Development Consultants-may be funded and used by DFID. MQM leaders have probably indicated a preference for British economic activity in Karachi if they form a government. There are indications that the MQM decision to part ways from the PPP government was not well received by the British though the MQM justified it on grounds of a biased government in Karachi. Most recently an MQM leader Ms Nasreen Jalil met the British High Commissioner to express their reservations over the ‘delimitation of constituencies’ that, according to her, could lead to increased ‘Talibanization’ in Karachi that could further lead to disruption of NATO logistics through the port city. She sought UK support in the UN on this issue. The British will probably draw their own conclusions on the MQM stance.

Not to leave the PML(N) out the British High Commission representatives met with Mr Nawaz Sharif who discussed his concerns about possible US plans to delay elections and extend the interim governance arrangements and the need to ensure timely free and fair elections. The handing over of Gwadar port to China and the Iran-Pakistan pipeline and US concerns over these were also discussed according to reports. Mr. Nawaz Sharif seems to have indicated his fears of foreign and Pakistani intelligence agencies conniving to disturb the law and order situation. Similar allegations about British intelligence colluding with Pakistan Army in the killing of Akbar Bugti seem to have been voiced by the President Jamhori Watan Party (JWP) Mr Talal Bugti in interaction with British diplomats. According to JWP sources they have been promised funding if British interests were looked after though allegation of British involvement in any past event were firmly denied. Similar contacts were made with Markazi Jamiat Ahle Hadees whose leader Allama Zaheer recently visited the UK on a sponsored visit for which he was thankful and in turn was promised funds through DFID. EU Ambassadors have been in contact with the ANP to get a feel of the situation.

On a broader regional note there are reports of a ‘business consultancy’ in Doha Qatar fronting for a focused media watch in the Gulf, Middle East and South Asia. The funding may be from a foreign intelligence agency as over 300 journalists have been employed with about 20 from Pakistan. Besides Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Egypt and Syria-Pakistan will be of particular interest, especially its active media, to determine and possibly influence trends.


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