Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Aug 12, 2015

MQM’s troubles The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is going through hard times these days. Ever since the Karachi operation was launched, the party feels beleaguered and somewhat at a loss. On August 10, the MQM took its case of extrajudicial killings and disappearances of its workers to the forums of the Senate, National Assembly(NA) and Sindh Assembly (SA), albeit in contrasting styles. In the SA, a rumpus ensued when the MQM tried to sneak in a resolution against Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan as a retaliatory move against the resolution adopted by the house against Altaf Hussain’s speeches against the military and Rangers and invitations to foreign powers, including India, to intervene and ‘save’ the Muhajirs. Also, the issue of an MQM worker Mohammad Hashim’s murder was raised with much passion. Hashim had disappeared in May and his body was found in Jamshoro the other day. The rumpus took an ugly turn when the enraged MQM workers, denied permission to raise the issue out of turn by the Speaker, advanced threateningly towards the chief minister’s bench. Although they were thwarted in this purpose by a phalanx of PPP members, the whole scene quickly descended into a fish market. Two walkouts later, the MQM was roundly condemned for unparliamentary behaviour before the house was finally adjourned. In the NA, the same issue of the dead MQM worker was sought to be agitated but the Speaker refused to allow it for being a provincial subject. This obviously displeased the MQM, which walked out. In the Senate, Nasrin Jalil of the MQM made an emotional speech on Hashim and other MQM workers’ disappearance and/or extrajudicial killings since the Karachi operation began. She warned the powers that be to impose only such cruelties as they themselves would be able to bear, a thinly veiled threat of retaliation. Meanwhile both the Balochistan and Sindh Assemblies have adopted resolutions against Altaf Hussain’s provocative speeches, the former house asking for the MQM chief's extradition and trial under Article 6. A strike call by the MQM in Sindh was taken back on the assurance of the Rangers Director General (DG) to look into the Hashim case. Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar offered balm for MQM’s smarting wounds in the NA by holding out the olive branch of a dialogue. He revealed that he had intervened to instruct the Rangers DG not to arrest MQM parliamentarians without his clearance and to avoid lodging FIRs against them without his say so. At the same time he regretted that Altaf Hussain’s speeches were muddying the waters and making it difficult to manage the situation in a calm manner. His thrust was that every time there is dialogue with the MQM leaders, Altaf queers the pitch with one of his diatribes. He offered, if asked, to explain why the MQM headquarters 90 was raided by the Rangers. Meanwhile operations to net MQM workers allegedly involved in extortion and target killings continue in Karachi, with six more being arrested in this context on August 10. Chaudhry Nisar’s reiteration on the floor of the NA that the Karachi operation was not MQM-centric may be correct, but it has failed to convince MQM parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar, who reminded the house that the operation was initiated at the MQM’s request but has now turned against the MQM exclusively. While this to and fro of charge and counter-charge is likely to continue, there are concerns that the authorities should take on board. First, the repeated assertions of the Karachi operation not being aimed at targeting one party alone should translate into actions that prove the case. For instance, in contrast with the figure of 150 workers the MQM says have been arrested and disappeared, how many from other parties have been netted should be made public knowledge to establish the bona fides of the operation being non-discriminatory. Second, charges of ‘disappearance’ should be answered by presenting the arrested in the courts of law and letting the law take its proper course. Extrajudicial killings are never acceptable in any civilised society, justifications on the basis of the inefficacy of the judicial system notwithstanding. The obvious failings of the judicial system should be corrected on a war footing if the operation against terrorism and crime is to retain credibility and legitimacy. To continue on the present course in the present manner risks a bigger conflagration.

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