Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Karachi’s Curse!

By Adnan Gill

Karachi is the financial heart of Pakistan that generates about 65% of revenue mainly through taxes, customs and surcharges. It's world's twentieth largest metropolitan spread over 3,530 km². It hosts a whopping 12.5 million of humanity consisting of a rainbow of ethnicities. Karachi’s racial distribution is: Urdu/Mohajirs 48.52%; Punjabi 13.94%; Sindhi 7.22%; Pashto 11.42%; Balochi 4.34%; Saraiki 2.11%; others: 12.4%. Ideally, ethnic diversity generates ingenuity and creativity that translates into positive progress, like in the case of the United States. However to Karachi’s misfortune, racial diversity has only brought it a never ending curse. But the fault doesn't lay with the Karachiites, who happen to be the victims; rather it’s the politicians with their vested interests who should be blamed for its volatile curse.

In good old days, Karachi used to be known as the ‘city of lights,’ now it’s known as the ‘city of guns and violence.’ By large, till the 70s, Karachi used to be comparatively peaceful, but that changed when by propping up a new party in Sindh, the establishment decided to marginalize the solid hold of PPP in at least Karachi and Hyderabad. In 1984, under the patronage of Altaf Hussain (a taxi driver turned politician) ‘Muhajir Qaumi Movement’ (MQM) was created. The name itself suggested the party was established to exploit the sensitivities of the Urdu-speaking Pakistanis. It took 13 years for the party to realize that its name was a giveaway of its intentions and limitations. Consequently, in 1997, to shed its image of a racist party, it renamed itself to ‘Muttahida Qaumi Movement’.

However, its actions spoke louder than its politically correct name. Almost from the very beginning, MQM was a militant party that believed in doing its business at the barrel of gun. Based on the racial lines, MQM established no-go-areas and also opened up a number of torture cells around the city. MQM is frequently cited for its involvement in terrorist and mafia activities, especially within the city of Karachi. It is widely believed, it generates funds through carjackings, land grabbing, kidnappings, drug running, extortion (Bhatta), etc to sustain its absconder leadership hiding in London. To this day targeted killings remain its most favored modus operandi to silence its critics/opponents, and to put down dissensions within its own ranks. MQM is also documented for making remarkable gains in successive elections through rigging and naked violence.

Within a span of one year, MQM (a diehard ally of General Musharraf) twice demonstrated its unremarkable ability to turn Karachi into the killing fields. On May 12, 2007, thousands of cameras captured its workers massacring at least 40 unsuspected Karachiites, who were on their way to welcome the Chief Justice of Pakistan. A message was sent: stay out! Karachi belongs to only MQM. Then later, on April 9, 2008, upon learning their insatiable appetite for lucrative ministries would not be satisfied; MQM once again set their workers loose on Karachi. This time, they decided to target General Musharraf's nemesis, the Lawyers. Approximately, 40 civilians were shot and 12 were killed; out of which 5 victims were burnt alive in the lawyers’ chambers. As they shot their hapless victims, the killers chanted, ‘Karachi kis ka, MQM ka’. The message was: Altaf Hussain follows up on his threats and Sindh will not be allowed to function without MQM in the government. Every time MQM quenches its thirst with the blood of the innocent, ironically it raises hue cry, that it's them who were the victims. Their crocodile tears do not impress anyone anymore, because everyone knows that not a leaf is moved without Altaf's orders. Considering their iron grip on Karachi, their fabricated lies make their hue and cry look nothing more than regurgitated drama.

The argument whether MQM has become a fascist party has gone beyond hearsay. Virtually every human rights organization, Canadian government, and now even European Union's Election Observation Mission (EOM) has recognized MQM to be a militant organization. In its final report on the 2008 elections, EOM clearly stated how MQM implants racist sentiments, “The agenda of this largely secular party focuses on issues relating to regional autonomy and opposition to Punjabi dominance.” Then the report went over MQM's taste for violence, “The MQM has a reputation for strong control, sometimes including the use of force, violence and intimidation.” (Page 15)

Virtually every political pundit and every politician is of the opinion: bring MQM into mainstream politics. Frankly, it's exactly the wrong approach. Why? The answer is quite obvious, but for some reason it eludes the brightest political minds. It is a common knowledge that MQM is more than a political party; rather it's a cult that revolves around Altaf Hussain. If you remove Altaf, MQM will be left with only hundreds hooligans, also known as the party workers. Unlike other mainstream parties, like PPP and PML-N, the MQM has no middle tier or lower tier leadership. The joke is if you take away the phone, on which Altaf addresses his followers cum hostages, the party will cease to exist. The reality is not that far removed from the joke. Since Lord Altaf and his absconding cronies are luxuriously living abroad, the only way for them to issue their edicts is through phones and/or other electronic medium; sever the lines and the party will be left paralyzed, like a decapitated snake. Because the sole purpose of its leaderless-foot-soldiers in Pakistan is to enforce Lord Altaf's decrees to the letter.

However, what perplexes one's mind is the question, why no one in the mainstream media (electronic and newspapers) ever puts extremely vital questions to the MQM supporters:
1. Why the MQM is allowed to remain under the iron-grip of a British citizen, namely Altaf Hussain, who has also repeatedly renounced the creation of Pakistan?
2. Do they think Altaf Hussain should be tried for the crime of high-treason for renouncing the creation of Pakistan, asking the Indians to intervene in the Pakistani affairs, and that too in front of an Indian audience?
3. Why doesn't MQM leadership, especially Altaf Hussain return to Pakistan? His party was in the local, central and the Sindh governments for the last five years. The Army chief cum the President is also their ally; then what is he afraid of? Why these absconders haven't set a foot in Pakistan in last 18 years? Why don't they show their faces to their constituents?
4. If Altaf Hussain can fly over Pakistan to land in India to renounce the creation of Pakistan then would it have been too much trouble for him to land in Pakistan too to see his constituents for even couple of hours?
5. Why doesn’t MQM leadership renounce violence instead of issuing threats every other day?
6. Why do the Canadian government, EOM and the human rights organizations call MQM a terrorist party?
7. Do they think Mohajir Pakistanis deserve a competent and sincere leadership, or would they rather remain hostages to MQM's racist leaders, whose only job is to dictate the commands of a British national/agent at the gun-point?

One can understand why the media persons are afraid to put such questions directly to Lord Altaf, because their very lives may depend on his mood, but it's nothing short of hypocrisy of media for not laying these questions to the constituents or supporters of the MQM. Nevertheless, it is established that MQM/Altaf Hussain are synonymous with terror. Hardly a day goes by when Altaf doesn't issue threats, which reinforces the fact that he does not and will not part ways with politics of terror. Altaf is set in his ways of running MQM in the same manner as a Don of Mafia does. It is also obvious that the party’s survival depends on Altaf, and politics of division/racism and terrorism. Therefore, it is a totally useless idea to try to bring a person specific militant party into mainstream. What we need to do is, declare MQM as a defunct party, and most importantly to bring Karachiites back under the wings of mainstream parties, like they were before the MQM’s vicious reign of terror. If for any reason the Pakistani Mohajirs are skeptical of the so-called ‘Punjabi dominance’ then they can join parties like the PPP, which is well known for being open to the minorities and had won seats in all provinces.

Pakistan in large, and Karachi in specific, deserves a sigh of relief from MQM’s curse. The only practical way to break Karachi's curse is to read MQM its final rites. May Allah allow the party Dons rest in peace and luxury on Her Majesty's treasury.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Monday, April 21, 2008

Best of Pakistani Political Drama

By Adnan Gill

One can always count on Pakistani politics for being full of entertainment. In fact, its twists and turns can not only rival but beat any of the Holly-Bollywood soap operas or action-packed thrillers. The political drama never fails to keep the pundits at the edge of their seats. The best part is, one doesn't have to know its 60 years old history to be entertained. One can jump in at any time and catch up with confidence, that still it will be packed with plenty of comedy, conspiracies, suspense, cheating, switching of partners, vulgarity, arm-twisting, backstabbing, murders, and unadulterated violence.

The roots of the latest drama go back to the time when President Musharraf vainly tried to sack the Chief Justice (CJ) of the Pakistani Supreme Court. Fast forward to October, 2007; assassination of Benazir Bhutto leaves a leadership vacuum in PPP. A behind the scenes power struggle starts within the PPP. Conspicuously, Ms. Bhutto's widower Asif Zardari produces a handwritten living will of Ms. Bhutto, according to which the crown was passed to him and his son, Billawal Zardari.

Through a LFO, General Musharraf clamps second martial-law on his own government, suspends the Constitution and the judiciary, gags the media, and throws some 4,500 perceived opponents into the jails. Unconstitutionally, gets himself reelected as the President for another five years. To guarantee his presidency’s survival, Musharraf signs an unprecedented ‘you scratch my back, and I will scratch yours’ deal, also known as the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Reluctantly, Musharraf transfers the Army command to General Kiayani. PPP goes through the February 18, national elections under the leadership of Asif Zardari to win 121 seats in the National Assembly, though far less than what political pundits were expecting.

In a stunning development, enraged voters threw out Musharraf's party (PML-Q) from the ruling benches. Rumor is: the credit for the humiliating defeat of PML-Q goes to General Kiayani for allowing free and fair elections to be held in Pakistan.

To the dismay of President Musharraf and his cronies, Nawaz Sharif's political party PML-N emerges as the second-largest winner with 91 seats in the National Assembly. PPP and PML-N, at least on the surface, decided to let the bygones be bygones by joining hands to form coalition governments in the center and in Punjab. PML-Q came at the third-place with 54 seats. MQM, ANP, MMA and PML-F secured 25, 13, 6 and 5 seats respectively; while independents won 18 seats.

Like the Kumbaya singing hippies from the 60s, the politicians were hugging each other like there was no tomorrow. Media elevated Asif Zardari to the status of Nelson Mandela. He was shown going from door to door to hug the leaders of every party in sight. He even remembered to pay homage to the powers to be in the US Embassy to thank them for keeping him in their good graces. Appreciating the complexities of new era in Pakistani politics, a parade of American diplomats also descended upon Islamabad to warn that their multi-billion dollar investments in the dictator would not be flushed down the drain.

Remember, the pesky little issue of sacking of Superior Court Judges? Yes, the one which started when President Musharraf vainly tried to sack Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry? It turns out; Justice Chaudhry was becoming a thorn in the sides of the Pakistani elite, including President Musharraf’s and the ex-Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz. Another rumor is, CJ was declared persona-non-grata when he started to look into affairs considered ‘none of his business,’ like the shady sales of multimillion Islamabad Farms, which were allegedly bought for pennies on a dollar. Originally, these farms were sold to the famers at subsidized rates, with the intent of supplying Islamabad with fresh poultry and produce. But oddly, the farms turned out to be an exclusive society of the Pakistani elite, who instead chose to build multi-million mansions on the subsidized farms.

Apparently, CJ’s cardinal sin was his word to the nation, that he will see to it, that for the first time in nation’s history, the court will dispense justice without any bias or prejudice, and according to the Constitution. The court was becoming independent. This meant: the court could have demanded the bureaucracy to justify their actions; the court could have declared General Musharraf’s second presidential term to be unconstitutional and illegal; the court could have ordered an inquiry into May 12, Karachi Massacre, or it could have ordered an inquiry into the mysterious disappearances of journalists who dared to report on the American attacks on the Pakistani civilians; the court could have released the extrajudicially incarcerated citizens; the court could have demanded explanations of why Pakistanis were being extrajudicially deported to Guantanamo or Saudi Arabia; and the worst, the court could have declared the infamous (party specific) NRO to be an illegal ordinance.

Naturally, there was too much at stake for too many players to have allowed the independent Judiciary to do its job. The euphoric hugging and new alliances were forming, not just for show, but they were for real, because almost everybody had their axe to grind against the Judiciary with the exception of PML-N. They had their own axe to grind, but not against the Judiciary, rather against the presidency. The only way for PML-N to have any chances of winning enough seats to make a difference was to capitalize on anti-Musharraf sentiments by jumping on the Lawyers Movement bandwagon. However, it boxed itself by taking up lawyers’ cause of the restoration of Independent Judiciary.

While PPP was hugging and shaking hands with everyone in the name of national reconciliation, in the background, it was contemplating on ways to sabotage the restoration of Judiciary. Obviously, restoration could have meant loss of billions of dollars for Mr. Zardari alone; so something had to be done to keep the PML-N from honoring its mandate. PPP released several trial balloons with nonstarters like ‘minus-one’ formula, meaning restored Judiciary with the exception of Chief Justice Chaudhry.

Since PML-N refused to budge from its stand on Judiciary, and Zardari’s dilemma of, on one hand honoring his promises made to the authors of much cherished NRO, and on the other hand loss of billions of dollars. Something had to be done to bypass PML-N’s stand. To the disappointment of PML-N, and to certain extent, to the disappointment of some of his own party members, Mr. Zardari made an appearance in the infamous Nine Zero MQM headquarters. Human rights organizations blame MQM for practicing politics at the barrel of gun. In a teleconference with its undisputed leader, Lord Altaf Hussain, Mr. Zardari extended his hand in friendship. All of this was done with lot of crocodile-tears and superficial drama. MQM, which has a history of becoming part of every government, only to backstab and demonize its partners later on, could not resist another opportunity to quench its thirst for power and plush ministries. Despite the fact, MQM website still calls PPP a terrorist organization (see: Altaf Hussain’s open letter to the people of Pakistan), despite the fact on May 12 dozens of PPP workers were killed by the MQM men, and despite the fact MQM was suspected to have a hand in the October 18 attack on Benazir Bhutto’s life, in which hundreds of PPP workers were cut down to shreds, but for some odd reason Mr. Zardari chose to become friends with the alleged murderers of his wife and his party workers.

Mr. Zardari stood at an impasse. Either he had to jeopardize his billions of dollars by breaking his promises made to the presidency, or he had to somehow marginalize PML-N. What better way to marginalize PML-N than establish a two thirds majority to veto PML-N’s every move? According to the current composition of the National Assembly, the magic number to establish 2/3 majority is 224. Since, PML-N held 1/3 of seats, Zardari had to scrape the bottom to come up with the magic number of 224. That is why he put up a dog-and-pony show of making mends with the MQM.

Evidently, Zardari’s idea of making mends with the MQM didn't go well even within his own party. At first, he promised MQM few lucrative ministries in the center and a bunch in the Sindh government. However, despite MQM’s public threats it realized, it had a chance of snow flake in hell of getting any ministries in the center, and later, it turned out they were swindled out of any ministries in the Sindh government too. Alas, MQM was left high and dry. MQM was stabbed in the back the way it had been stabbing others for the last two decades. Their so-called friend failed to deliver. The humiliation was too much to bear.

Plan, Marginalize PML-N failed to get off the ground. The freight train of the Lawyers Movement was barreling down the throats of strange bedfellows. The Presidency, MQM, PML-Q, and Zardari had to bring plan-B in motion to derail the Lawyers Movement. It was time for another dog-and-pony show. In a quick succession ex-chief Minister of Sindh Arbab Rahim and ex-Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sher Afgan Niazi were given a humiliating beating in front of live cameras. Even though, Dr. Afgan was rescued by the Lawyers Movement’s leader Aitzaz Ahsan, in a so-called reaction to the beatings by unknown men in whites, the offices of the lawyers and the Bar Counsel were burnt down in Mianwali.

Under the cover of protesting against the beatings of Arbab Rahim and Dr Sher Afgan, General Musharraf's strongest ally MQM decided to remind the newly formed government that the party which flexed its muscles on May 12 -- in which MQM cold-bloodedly murdered at least 40 political opponents -- was still strong enough to repeat the performance. In a premeditated attack, two busloads of MQM armed hoodlums in masks descended upon the lawyers offices in Karachi, where they burnt-alive at least five people in the lawyers’ chambers. By shooting some 40 civilians and killing 12 people, the power-hungry MQM sent a message: Sindh government will not be allowed to function unless MQM is also handed some lucrative ministries. Once again, instead of condemning the violence, General Musharraf unbelievably pinned the blame on the lawyers, like he did when Karachi suffered death and destruction on May 12 and when he threw his fists in the air declaring, people have shown their power.

But what is a drama without a healthy mix of comedy? In his typical style (reminiscent of Hitler’s style), for his party's failure to contain April 9 violence, MQM's Chief Altaf Hussain shed crocodile-tears and tendered his resignation, only to take it back within the next 60 minutes.

Pakistan's longest running soap opera is not over yet. Stay tuned!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , , , ,