By Ahsan Waheed
MQM’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.