Monday, March 16, 2015

Daily Times Editorial March 16, 2015

MQM revelations The Rangers presented detained MQM worker Umair Siddiqui in an Anti-Terrorism Court on Saturday. In a claimed confessional statement Siddiqui has said to have given during interrogation, the Rangers laid a whole series of serious charges against him. The Rangers say Siddiqui confessed MQM sector in charge Rehman Bhola was responsible for the deadly 2012 Baldia Town fire that killed at least 258 factory workers (allegedly because the factory owners had refused to pay extortion money). Further, that Siddiqui had been given the task of killing MQM opponents and he had been involved in 120 target killings with the help of a 23-member MQM team drawn from various units of the party. The orders for these target killings used to be issued by Hammad Siddiqui, a member of MQM's Karachi Tanzeemi Committee. Umair Siddiqui and his team of target killers also murdered Rangers Lance Naik Shaukat. Umair was involved in the murders of former PPP senator Faisal Raza Abidi's guard and MQM leader Amir Khan's nephew Sabihullah. MQM worker Tahir alias Nadeem SP was also killed by the assassination team. The suspect has revealed that in 2008, MQM's Deputy Convenor Anees Qaim Khani held a meeting at Khurshid Memorial Hall and issued directions to speed up target killings on ethnic/linguistic basis. The target killers were tasked to not only kill MQM opponents but also MQM workers who fell foul of the party's leadership. A dealer in Quetta was used to procure weapons for MQM's armed wing. In February 2015, all sector in charges were directed to deposit their surplus weapons in the MQM headquarters Nine Zero to prevent them falling into the hands of the security forces during raids. Such weapons were transferred in ambulances. Approximately 250-300 target killers are still residing or hiding in the neighbourhood of Nine Zero. Last but not least, in the 2013 elections, on the orders of Umair Siddiqui, 60-70 party workers in Gulistan-e-Jauhar cast fake votes for MQM candidate Faisal Sabzwari at the polling stations in the Maymar sector. The suspect was handed over after the hearing to the Rangers on a 90 day remand for further interrogation/investigation. Accusations by Altaf Hussain that all those (around 140) rounded up in the raid on Nine Zero the other day have been severely tortured notwithstanding, the charge sheet against Umair Siddiqui and other MQM heavyweights reads like a serious indictment. Knowing the modus operandi of the security forces, the accusation of torture cannot be lightly dismissed. Nevertheless, the account the Rangers have presented as a confessional statement conforms to the urban legends about the MQM that have been around for years. What is notable about this account is not only the existence of target killing teams and weapons smuggling, but also what the MQM was doing at critical points in time when it was engaged ostensibly fully in the democratic process. Coming out of enjoying nine years of a share in power under the Musharraf regime, in 2008, if the confessional statement is to be believed, the MQM was carrying out ethnic cleansing of its opponents in Karachi to retain its monopoly of power over the city. And in the 2013 elections, presumably under the pressure of the unprecedented challenge in Karachi from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, they stuffed the ballot boxes to ensure their candidates' victory. Actually this is the least surprising of the revelations since even in the 2008 elections, the number of votes cast and margin of victory of MQM candidates in Karachi did not accord with the visibly low turnout in the city. It is interesting to take note of certain other developments that may have a bearing on the direction the wind may be blowing vis-a-vis the MQM. First, the bomb blast in Orangi on Saturday may or may not be related to the visible noose tightening around the MQM. Second, the federal government is on the verge of sharing with Scotland Yard details of the two suspects in its custody believed to be the murderers of Imran Farooq in London. Third, there are ominous rumblings from the federal government and the security forces regarding the criticism and language directed at the Rangers and military since the Nine Zero raid. All in all, tough times ahead for the MQM.

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