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Altaf Hussain: Reading Beyond Lines

14 September, 2011

By Usman Khalid


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The 9/11 of 2001 was no less significant for Pakistan than 9/11 ten years ago; both constituted a watershed moment. While there is concern and anger at the speech by Altaf Hussain on his demagogic style as well as substance (lies and slander) the speech was also full of meaning. He spent a lot of time accusing the USA and UK of wanting to 'cut Pakistan into pieces'. This is a complete volute face.

Both the USA and UK had been providing protection and support to the MQM particularly after 9/11 in 2001. The letter written by Altaf Hussain to Prime Minister Tony Blair on 23 September (and released by Zulfiqar Mirza) offering the services of his party to provide HUMINT in Pakistan and Afghanistan and to paralyse the port city of Karachi, was followed within weeks by the invasion of Afghanistan and Altaf Hussain being given citizenship of the UK which had been refused earlier.

Anyone recommended by the MQM Secretariat in London has been readily given political asylum in the UK, USA, Canada and South Africa. The Indian intelligence (RAW) kept in close contact with Altaf Hussain through Mr Anwar, who is a British citizen of Indian origin. Altaf Hussain had the unique luxury of being the darling of so many counties in three continents at the same time.

The five years of Musharraf and Shaukat Aziz rule marked the high point of power and influence of MQM in Pakistan; the President as well as the Prime Minister were both refugees from India (Mohajir). The MQM did not use its power for anything good, it used its position to secure administrative changes in Sindh to keep the two main cities of Sindh – Karachi and Hyderabad – under MQM rule and control.

The resentment of the conduct of the MQM among Sindhis increased palpably. The PPP won absolute majority in Sindh in 2008 Elections on the promise of reversing the changes introduced under Musharraf rule. On coming to power, the PPP led federal government as well the provincial government in Sindh dragged its feet and did not fulfil its promises.

On the contrary, the PPP Leader - Aif Zardari (AZ) - begged the MQM to join it in government. The resignation of former Home Minister Zulfiqar Mirza (ZM) has since brought out in the open the differences within the ranks of the PPP. The majority in the PPP would like the exit of the MQM from the coalition to be permanent. But ZM has gone much further – he has accused with clear proof that the MQM is an anti-state terrorist organisation.

In his press conference by video link on 9/11, Altaf Hussain showed the map that came to light more than five years ago in an article by Ralph Peters titled 'Blood Borders'. The MQM was seen at an outfit which could be used by the USA to infiltrate the state institutions of Pakistan. But things have turned out differently.

The USA and UK are fighting the Pashtun in a war in Afghanistan and FATA, where the MQM has no presence. The MQM is fighting its own private war against the Pashtun for the control of Karachi. The Americans did try to win over the Pashtun leadership in Karachi and KPK (the ANP) and wanted to have it work alongside the MQM. The effort of President AZ to get the ANP and the MQM into his ruling coalition was a part of the same effort. In this game, while AZ proved to be a smart operator, Altaf Hussain proved to be inept making enemies rather than friends.

At some point, the Americans decided on two things; 1) to dump the MQM which is a subject of scorn and contempt in Sindh, Baluchistan and KPK; 2) to abandon the objective of the 'break-up of Pakistan, which has been given extensive publicity earning the USA much discredit. That explains all the glaring contradictions in 9/11 press conference by Altaf Hussain. At this time, Indian RAW alone is supporting the MQM which has been underlined by the confessional statement of target killer Ajmal Pahari of the MQM who is one of many trained and launched by India.

Altaf Hussain made a crude attempt to win over the Army and the ISI offering it the support of the MQM to defeat the nefarious designs of the 'super power'. After two decades of insurgency in Karachi killing hundreds of policemen and ISI personnel, it discloses the desperation of the MQM rather than improve its prospects to secure new friends or a new strategy. The MQM is at its weakest and the majority of the people feel the time is ripe to expose and ban the MQM.

It may be recalled that Sheikh Mujib was also caught making a deal with RAW (Agartalla Conspiracy) to work for the Indian objective of separation of East Pakistan. He was released from prison under pressure from the politicians in other provinces of Pakistan. His release was celebrated as 'evidence' of the charge of conspiracy being false. Shiekh Mujib went on to secure a landslide victory for the Awami League in East Pakistan.

The history is repeating itself because the lies of Sheikh Mujib and the Awami League were never nailed. The MQM insists that the "Jinnahpur Conspiracy' was also false, although the case was dropped under Mohajir Musharraf rule. Every MQM walla now says that if 'we' are pushed to the wall like the people of East Pakistan, we will be left with no choice except to follow in the footsteps of East Pakistan i.e. start an insurrection and call in the Indian Amy.

Altaf Hussain confirmed that line of blackmail in his 9/11 press conference. In answer to a question what will he do if the slaughter of Mohajir did not stop, he said, "I will release them and allow them to choose" – he meant the objective as well the methods? The Jinnahpur conspiracy is very much operative; India is very much an active part of the conspiracy; Dr Zulfiqar Mirza is absolutely right in everything he said.

The ball is in the court of President AZ. He can send a reference to the Supreme Court to ban the MQM and he can remove Rehman Malik as Interior Minister. He is unlikely to do that unless his handlers tell him during his current visit to London to do so. Surely, the British and the Americans can see that 'politics of reconciliation' with the MQM has robbed AZ of support even within his own party.

The replication of the Arab Spring in Pakistan is unlikely; intensified insurrection or a coup d'état are more likely. The Supreme Court is already seized of the matter of Karachi and the Chief Justice may order, among other things, a ban on the MQM and removal of Rehman Malik, and save the day. But the political class in Pakistan does not see the dangers.

It appears that the ruling coalition, the political opposition, and the institutions of the sate – particularly the Judiciary – are paralysed by confusion; none is likely to take strong action that the situation demands. Pakistan may well face the situation of 1971 once again. In the end, the military would have to act like in 1971 – when it is too late. In an attempt to avoid Indian invasion we may precipitate it by being ill prepared – politically, diplomatically and militarily.

President Zardari will have to ban the MQM and sack Rehman Malik, or the Chief Justice will have to do that; if neither delivers, military intervention would become inevitable.

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