Dr Qaisar Rashid
Hardly had the Pakistanis finished ruing the day when they stood silent to the invitations to the military (by politicians) to jump into the political foray when the statement of Altaf Hussain appeared. Blatantly, Altaf invited the military to impose a kind of ‘sub-martial law’ (with the consent of the Supreme Court) to chuck out politicians. In his statement, Altaf called the military generals ‘patriot’ and politicians ‘corrupt’. His statement was essentially anti-PPP in nature.
Instead of attenuating the statement afterwards, Altaf stuck to his grounds. The members of the MQM followed the lead and started appearing on various TV channels to defend the wisdom – which is still obscure to many – hidden in Altaf’s statement.
After the general elections in 2008, it was expected that all the political parties would work for strengthening democracy and its related institutions but that expectation was frustrated when Altaf uttered the controversial statement and thereby belied his own democratic credentials.
It seems that Altaf has overreached himself. Altaf must be aware of the fact that the MQM is an ethnic party which has yet to adopt the demeanour of a national political party. Quintessentially, the MQM is a party of a provincial stature carrying an obvious ethnic tinge and projecting the rights of the Urdu speaking people residing in urban Sindh and that the party is enjoying monopoly at the national level because of its urban concentrated voters: had its voters been dispersed in the rural areas of Sindh, the MQM would have been diluted to get ineffective.
Nevertheless, the undemocratic flair in the statement of Altaf is not unexpected because the MQM worked in collaboration with – and under the auspices of – the former military General Pervez Musharraf. Perhaps, for Altaf, the changeover to representative democracy was not fruitful. The PPP might be a tough giver-and-taker than that of the Musharraf’s junta. Further, Altaf might be feeling more comfortable in working with the military generals than the civilian democratic leaders.
Sometimes, it seems that the spirit of Pir Pagara – to be a blue-eyed boy of the military establishment – takes possession of a few politicians. Some call the phenomenon as Sheikh Rashidism. The poor Rashid kept on relying on the goodwill of the corps commander of Rawalpindi than his own political knack and, consequently, spoiled his political future. In the general elections of 2008, Rashid was not rescued by any quarters. To extend the argument further, along with his own, Rashid also botched up the political career of his nephew whom he was promoting as the next of kin.
Many still wonder the political acumen of Imran Khan who agrees to a few portions of Altaf’s statement. Imran seems obsessed with the midterm elections – to secure a place for his party. The people around are still unsure if he could secure more than one seat in any forthcoming general elections. In a way, absence of or delay in holding local bodies polls is hiding the political worth of several parties that otherwise declare themselves parties of national stature. It is not only the political manifesto that works wonder during the elections but it is also the political insight that helps a party secure a bargaining position. Imran’s case seems weak at the latter point. Imran must consult Altaf how he manages such affairs.
Imran should be regretting the day he did not join Nawaz Sharif to take part in the elections in 2008. Now, Imran has to wait for the completion of term of the government: no midterm elections. The politicians who are declared corrupt now were, unfortunately and surprisingly, also corrupt in 2008. What is a new revelation about them dawned on Altaf? The fake degree cases can actuate by-polls and condemnation (or perhaps punishment) of the fake degree holders. That is it; nothing more than that: not midterm elections at least.
It was not the love for country but the time which was ripe to exploit something to bargain more in urban Karachi. The history of the MQM is replete with the practice of blackmailing the central government by hurling one threat or another on it. The ANP is already under stress in Karachi for losing its leaders and workers at the hands of ‘unknown’ assailants when the opponent is the MQM.
In a way, the statement of Altaf is an extension of his early utterance: ‘Oey Jagirdara’! But Altaf missed the point that not every statement fetches popularity: some backfire instead. By calling generals to take over and introduce a sub-martial law (with all its connotations), Altaf violated the Constitution (Article 6) and the 18th Amendment supported by the MQM. It is still wonder of this age, why do politicians resort to such gimmickry?
One can argue that Altaf alighted on an opportunity to raise his political stature by snubbing the waderas (landlords) of Sindh on their (alleged) clandestine acts of breaching the defence of the river Indus to save their areas but putting the lives and property of the masses (haris) in danger. If such were the intentions, the statement of Altaf might earn some votes for the MQM in the future. Nevertheless, Altaf could have given a better solution to brave the ravages of the flood and could have donated a substantial sum to the flood-hit people of rural Sindh. By so doing, he could have sought more popularity and attention than by resurrection of a Pir Pagara in him. The least is to say that Sh Rashid may also resort to at least one such statement in the future, as for some people the idea of Altaf is contagious – even if not subversive.
Generally speaking, the statement of Altaf indicates presence of an undemocratic trend in politics. Further, the statement holds potential to sap energy from the democratic vigour of the people. Democracy has already been blighted by such blunders – both statements and the consequent acts. Preserve democracy at all costs!