Monday, August 3, 2015

Daily Times Editorial Aug 4, 2015

Altaf’s latest Altaf Hussain of late seems to have gone off the rails. In his latest gaffe, he has addressed by telephone the MQM’s annual convention in Dallas, the US, asserting that the party’s workers should protest before the UN, NATO headquarters and the White House against alleged atrocities against the party and demand they send their troops to Karachi. Further, he castigated India for cowardliness since it was just watching the spilling of Muhajirs’ blood without doing anything about it. Inevitably, these remarks provoked strong condemnation across the board by the government and almost all political parties. Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar not only questioned Altaf Hussain’s patriotism and good sense, he said the government was preparing a legal reference to be sent to the British government regarding the MQM leader’s attempt to wage war against Pakistan by inviting foreign forces to intervene in its internal affairs. The minister once again defended the operation by the Rangers in Karachi as being conducted without discrimination against criminal and terrorist elements and not aimed at any one party. Chaudhry Nisar pointed to the improved law and order situation in the metropolis, saying kidnapping for ransom had almost completely been eliminated and everyone, including MQM, was satisfied with the situation except criminal elements within the party. The real reason Altaf Hussain was frothing at the mouth in this manner, the minister argued, was because the noose was tightening around him as a result of the two cases instituted against him by the British police, i.e. the murder of Imran Farooq and the charge of money laundering. The interior minster was followed by universal condemnation of Altaf Hussain’s fulminations by all the provincial Assemblies, the PPP, Jamaat-i-Islami, PTI, Baloch and Sindhi nationalist parties and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. The universal demand was to bring Altaf Hussain back to the country and try him for violating Article 5 of the constitution, which, according to the PPP’s Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, demands total loyalty to Pakistan. Amidst this latest brouhaha created by Altaf Hussain’s increasingly bizarre utterings, the MQM’s Farooq Sattar tried to defend the indefensible by placing his leader’s statement in the context of the alleged victimisation and targeting of only MQM’s workers in the Karachi operation. What, if no one was listening to their cries, Farooq Sattar asked, could the MQM do? Even if it is conceded that there is some weight in the MQM’s assertion that MQM is bearing the main brunt of the Karachi operation, this is because MQM’s terror-laden monopoly on Karachi’s life is of such long standing that any operation against criminals and terrorists would inevitably come down hardest on the party harbouring the biggest number of such undesirable elements. Despite all the signs that this time the operation would spare no one, including the MQM, the party made no effort to distance itself from criminal and wanted elements within its ranks. So much so that the Rangers’ raid on MQM headquarters 90 yielded a rich crop of such persons and weapons. We have yet to see any introspection on the part of the party to come to terms with its past and chalk out a roadmap for the future. Failure to do so, exacerbated as it is repeatedly by Altaf Hussain’s unwise speeches, has raised serious questions regarding the MQM’s future. Some analysts are openly asking whether the party would be allowed to function as in the past, even if it is not banned. At the time of writing these lines, a high level meeting chaired by the prime minister was expected to be convened to discuss the issue. Unfortunately for the government and the law enforcement agencies, they may get more purchase out of actions on the ground in Karachi than any ‘legal reference’ to the British government. Here, London is accused in some circles of having a vested interest in the past in offering asylum and even citizenship to Altaf Hussain despite his controversial record. Whether the Pakistan government’s legal reference will change that soft corner for Altaf Hussain, the cases against him in Britain quoted by the interior minister notwithstanding, or will the whole furore die down once again as it so often has in the past, only time will tell. For the moment at least, Altaf Hussain has succeeded once again in roiling up the national scene and sparking off all kinds of speculations about his and his party’s fate in the days ahead.

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