Friday, June 26, 2015

Daily Times Editorial June 27, 2015

BBC report fallout In the wake of the sensational BBC report of the MQM receiving funding and training from India, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed concern and anguish in almost equal measure. The prime minister has asked federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar to get to the bottom of the affair through thorough investigations. On the other hand, he has expressed his disappointment that if the reports are true, it erodes his desire for better relations with India, which could only be brought about on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation. Chaudhry Nisar has met the British High Commissioner Philip Barton to request help in ascertaining the facts behind the BBC report. He will also be writing a letter to the UK government in this regard. The matter is sensitive and requires careful handling, not the least because a major political party’s name and reputation are at stake, not to mention the foreign policy implications. While Chaudhry Nisar has committed to carrying out a thorough investigation, the matter of the ‘authoritative’ Pakistani source quieted by the BBC as having revealed that MQM members had under interrogation told the British authorities of the India connection, apparently remains off the interior minister’s radar. Is it not of vital importance to trace who this ‘authoritative' source is and how the person/entity concerned knew of the revelations to the UK authorities? If the source turns out to be a government official, that could prove embarrassing most of all for the government itself. Chaudhry Nisar has added a cautionary note, albeit in contradictory fashion. On the one hand he advised not to jump to conclusions before the allegations are investigated. On the other hand, he offered the priceless advice that the MQM as a whole should not be seen as sullied by the allegations since the majority of its members were patriotic Pakistanis! Is this not pre-emptive, to put it mildly? But then our worthy interior minister is not famous for consistency in his frequent statements. Altaf Hussain has rejected the allegations in one of his famous addresses to his followers on the telephone, mixing defiance with an attempt to advise Chaudhry Nisar to investigate money laundering by Finance Minister Ishaq Dar and a warning to Defence Minister Khwaja Asif not to go too far or else… In addition, Altaf Hussain also questioned whether the government intends to trace out the ‘authoritative’ source that has set the cat among the pigeons. The only really credible part of Altaf Hussain’s emotional diatribe was the MQM’s intention to seek legal recourse against the BBC. That is advice being proferred by a number of parties, though not always for altruistic reasons. Clearly, the BBC report, whatever its credibility, has put the MQM in a lot of trouble. It is not enough for the party to adopt either an aggressively dismissive posture or reject the allegations as a repeat brew of past reports in similar vein. For its own sake, the MQM must explore the legal options open to it, in Pakistan as well as in the UK. Clearing its name of the serious charges of what amounts to treason is critical to the continued existence and health of the party. During this period of efforts to clear its name however, the MQM will find the going uphill at home. PTI’s Shah Mahmood Qureshi could not resist twisting the knife (two ways) by asking the PPP whether it still intended to go through with its reported contemplation of inviting the MQM to join the Sindh government again. The PPP of course has its own hands full with the perceived tightening of the net around its leadership on corruption allegations. The top leadership is reportedly conferring in Dubai, away from the prying eyes and ears of the powers that be, to formulate a strategy to fend off what appears to be a concerted campaign against it too. The PPP therefore may not be in a position at present to stick its neck out to ‘save’ its erstwhile coalition partner in Sindh. Both the PPP and the MQM seem to have been targeted by powerful actors with an agenda that borders, according to some analysts, to a ‘creeping’ coup against the civilian political class, or at least certain sections of it at present. What that portends for the Sindh government and indeed the democratic dispensation as such, remains the subject of much speculation and, indeed, some anxiety.

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