Thursday, March 19, 2015

Daily Times Editorial March 20, 2015

Hit man Condemned prisoner Saulat Mirza has hours before his excution been reprieved, at least temporarily, on the basis of a video released showing him confessing to various crimes and naming MQM chief Altaf Hussain and other leaders of the party as the ones who gave him instructions to carry out target killings. Mirza said he was a MQM worker and received direct orders from party leader Babar Ghauri to assassinate KESC managing director Shahid Hamid, his driver, and guard. He was summoned to Ghauri’s house where he received the instructions on the telephone from no less than Altaf Hussain himself from London. Babar Ghauri, according to Mirza’s revelations, was the normal conduit for relaying such instructions. The former MQM hit man said workers like him were used and later discarded like “tissue paper”. Governor Sindh Ishratul Ibad is accused of providing protection for criminals within the party. Further, he said MQM workers who became popular were killed or removed in a humiliating manner. To illustrate the former he quoted the example of former MQM chairman Azeem Tariq who was murdered and for the latter he pointed to the humiliating ouster of former mayor of Karachi Mustafa Kamal. He appealed to other workers of MQM to learn lessons from his fate, which was the result of being brainwashed in the name of rights and nationalism. Saulat Mirza is said to be a resident of North Nazimabad, Karachi, who became active in student politics and joined the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation, the precursor of the MQM. He first blipped on intelligence agencies’ radar in 1994 after the killing of two US diplomats and four workers of Union Texas, a US oil company, in Karachi. According to a police press conference on December 11, 1998, he was arrested at Karachi airport on his return from Bangkok, subsequently tried and sentenced to death. His appeals process has been exhausted, but Saulat Mirza’s execution has been postponed to allow the authorities to gain more information from the former hit man who is singing like a canary at the penultimate moment. Naturally, the MQM leaders named, i.e. Altaf Hussain, Governor Ishratul Ibad and Babar Ghauri have all denied the allegations. Altaf Hussain said he did not know nor had ever spoken to Saulat Mirza, nor did he threaten the Rangers in his television interview. That however, did not save virtually the entire top leadership of MQM’s names being put on the Exit Control List. The possible exception was Governor Ishratul Ibad, reportedly on his way to Dubai on a ‘private’ visit. Meanwhile the Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, as expected, has asked the British government through High Commissioner Philip Barton to take legal action against their citizen Altaf Hussain and stop him from defaming the armed and security forces in the manner he has been doing, and which has led to the registration of a case against him. Chaudhry Nisar argued such a threatening tone from British soil could damage the ongoing operation against criminal elements in Karachi. Following on after the Rangers raid on MQM headquarters Nine Zero the other day, these revelations by Saulat Mirza have further tightened the noose around the MQM. To add fat to the fire, the killer of PTI leader Zohra Shahid has been held and identified as a MQM worker whom the party says was in the authorities’ custody since February. The party has never been cornered in its entire history, not even during the operation against it in the 1990s, the way it is now finding its space shrinking. Denials and verbal protests are not helping the party wriggle out of the accusations. The country waits with bated breath to see what will happen next. Although the MQM has demonstrated many times in the past its ability to hold Karachi hostage to its whims and wishes, this time looks different. Any such attempt, particularly any manifestation of violence, could literally bring the house down around the MQM’s ears. More reasons for wondering about the PPP co-Chairperson Asif Zardari’s insistence on embracing the MQM at this juncture.

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