The MQM Saga

The MQM Saga

The Lament

The recent article in New York Times “Altaf Hussain’s grip on a Pakistani city faces a threat” and BBC documentary broadcast immediately after the elections in Pakistan in May 2013, portray Mr. Altaf Husain the leader of MQM, as a Mafia boss and MQM as a political party with a history of violence, which arguably makes it the most feared political force in Pakistan. TV anchors, many political leaders in Pakistan, some UK Parliamentarians of Pakistan origin, routinely appear on to Pakistan talk shows and say openly that they would be scared for their lives if they utter a word against MQM!

Pakistanis talk incessantly about the USD 500000 recovered from the MQM offices, and USD 3-5 million worth of property that they own in London, saying that this proves beyond a doubt that MQM are thieves and money launderers and should be put out of business. However, I do wonder whether the USD 4.5 million dollar watch that Mr. Nawaz Sharif is reported to have worn to his inauguration would pay for all of the MQM assets taken together.


To an outsider, like myself, this MQM leader they talk about does not appear to be anything special. His speeches are often rambling and off point. He bursts into song now and then, throws tantrums and uses the same rough language, like the other political leaders. He talks about exploitation of the masses by feudal landlords and the well-to-do. All a rehash of the slogans we have heard before.


All this commotion in the press and over the electronic media does not sound quite Kosher and is part of a larger story of painting MQM as a bogey man which is responsible for all the problems of Karachi. We need to go back a few years to see how this story has unfolded over the years.


The Origins of the MQM Bogey man image:


The migrants from India at the time of partition in 1947 constituted the most skilled and educated group who had managed to secure important positions in Government in the united India under Britain. Muslim business leaders also came from the Memon-Gujrati community who had migrated from Bombay, the hub of commercial activity in pre-partition India.

In response to pressure from the local politicians, very soon after partition the government set up barriers to entry designed to restrict entry of Urdu speaking migrants to Government positions by instituting a 2% quota for recruitment from Karachi where the majority of the Urdu speaking migrants had settled. As a result of these discriminatory practices the numbers of Urdu speaking people in the both the civil and military services, which in Pakistan also constitute the main policy making institutions, has become severely limited. This directly affected the political status and voice of the migrants.


Very soon after independence the euphoria of securing a country which would be the home of the Muslims of India wore off and raw ethnic rivalries started surfacing.


Initially the migrants suffered from idealistic fervor at having succeeded as the primary change agent that made Pakistan a reality and they could not imagine that they would be subject to discriminatory practices since they had given up their homes and lives in India and fought for Pakistan in spite of the fact that many of their brethren had to stay behind and they themselves had to start all over again.


However reality dawned very soon as ethnic rivalries turned to ethnic hatred and resulted in violence. Terror was first unleashed on the poor and middle class Urdu speaking classes in Karachi by Mr. Gauhar Ayub in 1965 after the electoral defeat of Fatima Jinnah against his father Gen. Ayub Khan when he headed processions of truckloads of armed Pathans in the poorest areas of Karachi which were at that time completely unarmed. Similar behavior under similar patronage continued in the 70s and 80s and even continues today.


MQM was created in1984 as problems of this type continued unaddressed over the years. Its objective was to represent the poorest areas of Karachi where the Urdu speaking migrants from India had settled after partition, when no other political party offered the Urdu speaking voter a choice or a voice and to protect them from the onset of violence..


At this time, and here I speculate, MQM took steps to ensure that whenever such violent incidents are repeated, then this activity would not be cost free to the perpetrators. At this the State and other political parties rose up in protest and labeled MQM as a violent ethnic group and created the MQM bogey man. It suited political parties to propagate the MQM bogey man stories instead of trying to address the causative effects.


The main cause of violence was the apathy of the state towards problems of the people of Karachi and its complete inability to manage a rapidly growing metropolis and the influx of multiple ethnicities from across Pakistan seeking livelihood. Each of these groups tried to create space for themselves and often resorted to violence.


In response to this situation it was inevitable that the Urdu speaking people of Karachi, who constituted the largest ethnic group, be similarly equipped to be able to survive in this environment, as they did under MQM. However they were not then and are not now the only armed violent group in Karachi.


The real solution for the problems of Governance in Sindh:

Surprising as it may seem to an outsider, the real problem of Sindh is not MQM or its alleged violent activities.


The basic problem in Sindh is that it is the only province in Pakistan where a distinction has been made between Urban and Rural areas. This has been done ostensibly as an affirmative action measure to level the playing field for the rural Sindhi population which is less developed against the more educated Urban areas where other ethnicities reside and constitute a majority.


The consequence of this is that no matter how the Urban votes are cast, the management of all of Sindh including Urban Sindh, will always lie with the representatives of the Rural areas, since the rural seats in the provincial, assembly are more than those for the Urban areas.


The people who have the responsibility to address local issues for the Urban areas have no interest in doing so, since their vote bank comes from the rural areas.


Further as a result of the recruitment quotas the state bureaucrats and the law and order agencies who are responsible to implement the policies made by the rural politicians are also largely staffed from areas other than Urban Sindh.


So as a consequence the people of Urban Sindh have little or no voice in either the formulation or the implementation of the policies that affect them directly.


It is obvious to an outsider that the real solution is that the governance system be modified so that the political representatives of the people are made responsible for all areas that affect the lives of the people living there and the necessary resources are allocated to them. They will have a direct interest in doing so. If they do not, they will be thrown out in the next elections.


This will be possible only if either, the division of the province, which is currently half done, is completed and two separate provinces formed with separate electorates, assemblies and budgets.


A second less drastic option is that responsibility and resources are devolved to a third tier of Government and implement a strong local government system where the local representatives are given extensive responsibility and the resources to manage all local affairs.


We see that when responsibility was actually devolved to this level, as was done during General Musharraf’s time, Karachi witnessed tremendous progress and the law and order situation was also much better.


However, attempts to devolve responsibility and finances to the local Government have been always resisted by the rural party in power at the provincial level.


This behavior has been repeated again a month ago when the Sindh provincial assembly has yet again forced through a bill that limits the scope of the Local Government and vests the responsibility with the bureaucrats instead of the political appointees. As mentioned before these bureaucrats have little or no representation from Urban Sindh.


This is counter to all democratic principles and international practice regarding local government. If the Government continues to play these games then the problems of Karachi will go largely unaddressed once again, irrespective of who wins the Local government elections.


This is a no-win situation and putting in place a bad system will just ensure that even when your “favourite party” wins the Local Government elections they will be unable to make any significant change.

Ali Hashim

A Ph.D. in Physics, from the Imperial College of Science and Technology, London, U.K and has also completed a post doctoral fellowship at the National Research Council of Canada

  • Camheating

    case still in pending lol. what is gonna happen.some knows some not :P

    Trane Gas Furnaces in Toronto and Scarborough

  • salman khan

    Great Article Thanks Writer

  • Ismail Shah

    Such a waste… Uncle what made you to say this “Surprising as it may seem to an outsider, the real problem of Sindh is not MQM or its alleged violent activities” ??

    Can you please tell me how many Pashtuns and Sindhi speakers were killed during Musharraf’s era in Karachi? My family friend is a transporter and the so called educated people have in mind that Transporters can only be pathans, they beated him so badly that he is ill till today.

    Third, When punjab’s CM is Punjabi, Balochistan’s CM is Baloch, KPK’s CM is Pashtun then what is the issue with Sindh’s CM being Sindhi Speaking?

    Fourth, do you really want to say that two wrongs make one right?

    Fifth and last, You, me and everybody knows that how the mandate of Karachi was theft. A cousin sister of mine went to vote, she fulfilled all the formalities but the ballet paper she got was already stamped.

    I will be waiting for your reply.

  • Saqib Mohiuddin

    Ali Hashim sahab has truly touched the heart of the problem. Excellent writing.

    One should put the hatred against any political party aside and analyze the true situation of Karachi and put in the solutions…….

  • MAKhan

    Mr. Hashim, you don’t have to act as an apologist for MQM. Party has been in power for 10-15 years, first aligning with a military dictato for 8 years then joining the coalition ruled by a Sindhi feudal Zardari.With brute majority in Karachi,MQM has twisted every rule to serve its vested interests, sometimes bargaining with unsvoury politicians, some times using coercion.They run with the hound and hare simultaneously. Murder of Imran Farooq in London has opened a pandora box.A man who had distanced himself from Altaf Hussain is savagely murdered, it does not lead to any guessing game. The pointer is on MQM.

  • Gohar

    The only problem with MQM is that they are opportunists and they don’t do the politics of principles and want to stay in the parliament/ministry at ANY cost.

  • S Nasrullah

    Journalism being the first draft of history, is often subject of personal preferences, prejudices and perspectives, and hence polluite the general picture. It is true that the Post Partition scenario saw loadful of trains and ships full of persecuted fleeing Muslims, migrating to Pakistan entering Lahore, Monabao and Karachi. The migrants brought with them education, experience and expertise and were accordingly accomodated in the available openings. True, the trading and commerce community started their own businesses; while the educated classes soon found place in the Administration ( the Naqvis and the Jaffereys). Pakistan was in a stage of transition and those pioneers sacrificed their all to make the country viable and capable of surviving on its own.

    Ayub Khan, indeed laid the infra structure of economy and his foreign policy promoted the inflow of foreign funds and technology. However, beset by parochial and provincial feelings of discrimination and injustice in developmental efforts between the West and the East Pakistan, he conjured up the policy of One Unit, that effectively negated the volume of population differentials. Good, bad or indifferent, the system worked for a while. The show of force exhibited by Ayub’s son in the aftermath of Ayub’s questionable victory over Ms Fatima Jinnah has been blown out of proportion by the advocates of MQM. Don’t MQM have their own cupboard full of skeletons?

    MQM, a party based on ethnicity and language was engineered by Gen Zia, with his ulterior motive to offset the building pressure of deprivation by the Rural sector of Sindh, embroiled in indolence, and living an existence, both pathetic and painful. Lack of education and a complex system of landed aristocracy that made them bonded labor from the cradle to the grave. The government of those times, rather than becoming a solution to the problem, became a part of the problem and initiated half hearted measure of Quota system to integrate the rural population into the mainstrteam. Instead of providing level playfield, they gave the rural Sindh, an advantage at the cost of the deserving people of the Urban Sindh. This gave MQM a cause to make an issue and legitimacy of their existence.

    It is a historical fact – incontestible – that the Supremo of MQM, Altaf Hussain had mandated his Party to go for “Arms” instead of “Electronic” items of convenience. He fired the first shot for promoting a militant wing to his Party. The hoodlums of the militant wing, soon asserted their activities of extortion, blackmail and blackball. It grew from strength to strength and the Military clearly saw a threat to the National integrity and an operation was launched to disarm the MQM militants and one must remember their clout to defy army capturing Major Bilal and his company.

    The power hungry MQM then started muscling its way into every government – be it civil or military – to extend its influence, its power and its deterrence. Throughout their stay in power with governments of all stripes, their performance has been insignificant and their activities highly suspicious. Its the same Altaf Hussain who spoke in India, lamenting the Partition and the emergence of the State of Pakistan.

    The Western Media definitely do not curry any favor for Pakistan and if they have written what they did about Altaf Hussain and MQM, is solidly backed by evidences and they hold the man liable for the crimes of commission and abetment. Mr Ali Hashmi may have soft corner for the MQM but can a duck wash her legs white while she lays hourly in the flood?

  • M.Saeed

    The writer states:”Karachi where the majority of the Urdu speaking migrants had settled”.

    But, the records of the Ministry of Refugees and Rehabilitation, Government of Pakistan prove that, out of over 10,000,000 refugees from India, only 325,000 or about 3,25% came and settled in Karachi. All refugees were provided with shelter in specially built refugee colonies including the whole of Korangi township and the ministry was disbanded in early sixties, after completing the task of settlement of all refugees.
    Till 1971 East Pakistan debacle, there was no Refugee or MQM issue. It all started during the Bhutto’s rule when suddenly the ethnic issue was created to loot and plunder by the ruthless gangs outlawed under various legal and other administrative dispensations. It was during that time when Altaf and his break-away partner Afaq Ahmed of MQM Haqiqi contrived the ill-founded term of “Muhajir Qoumi Movement”, all in the name of Urdu, which was already made the national language of Pakistan and all schools in the country were effectively joined together under a “Unified Teaching Syllabus” , starting at Primary level. Strangely, Sindh, the so called (and claimed) home of the largest population of Urdu speaking Pakistanis, was the last of the 4 provinces plus Azad Kashmir, to adopt the Urdu syllabus, only to be reversed back to Sindhi, immediately after disbandment of the One Unit by Gen. Yahyah Khan.

    We have to be factual and fair. Karachi carnage started in place of the East-West dichotomy. It is a substitute evil and becoming equally if not more menacing. The writer has to dissociate himself from ethnic bias and maintain a national spirit of unity before writing for the betterment of the society.

  • M.Saeed

    It is unfortunate that the writer is using the linguistic bogey for creating confusion by stating: “Government set up barriers to entry designed to restrict entry of Urdu speaking migrants to Government positions by instituting a 2% quota for recruitment from Karachi”.

    The fact is, 2% quota was awarded to the Urdu speaking Sindhis, “over and above” their normal quota on overall national merit. Therefore it was an exclusive favour to the group of Karachi settlers, on which the rest of Pakistan should have created barriers, not the continued demands of more by the already privileged self proclaimed Urdu peaking “Muhajirs”!

  • Quamrul Huda

    We all and specially thinkers must put our brain into, I know politicians cannot think that far that why a political party headed by a Punjab origin person will not get vote in other 3 provinces and similarly why a political party headed by a Pashtun, baluch, sindhi will not get vote in other provinces, this is because in my opinion we don’t have no trust in a leader who is from other province or ethnicity, we all see each other that he is going to take our bread and butter, how and why so much distrust.
    Let us take the example of stranded Urdu speaker (bihari) in Bangladesh, till the day it was east Pakistan those bihari were Pakistani, after fall of Dhaka they became stateless people. Bengalis wanted independence not the Urdu speaking biharis, they wanted to come to Pakistan as they are not Bengalis, but Pakistan will not allow them to come and Bangladesh will not accept them, to them they are Pakistani.
    Does anyone knows here that Israel has taken thousands and thousand of eithopian jews, who are dark black African, they were never ever Israeli, but Israel took them just because they are jews, and Pakistan a Islamic republic denies entry to people who are/were its own citizen, just in one day their citizenship ended because Dhaka fell.

    • M.Saeed

      First, better correct your name-spell Quam rul Huda!

      Now, let me know why Mohterma Fatima Jinnah, Z.A.Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto (twice) and even Zadrari-turned Bhutto got sweeping votes from Punjab?

      For Bengalis, we all West Pakistanis were “Shala Punjabi”.

      About Bengali hate Urdu slur, let me remind that, the Headquarters of the “Anjuman e Tarraqi e Urdu” was located in Sylhet up to pre-Bangladesh times and its library was the largest in the whole of Pakistan. It was an amazing fact that, there were more than 13,000 books of Bengali Urdu writers in that library.

      About the Ethiopian Jews, better correct your history. According to recent authentic discoveries, Ethiopian Jews are actually the real founding Jews who were forced to flee their land of origin, initially to Egypt after the destruction of their First Temple in 586 BCE and moved on to settle in Ethiopia.

  • Taqi Ullah Khalid

    Wonderfully tabulated article – Truth remains alive irrespective of time and events.

  • Ziauddin Ahmed

    I totally agree with saqib.
    Yeh log Karachi aur yahan ke logon se nafrat karte hain.

  • M.Saeed

    Yes, I am for more provinces for bringing the governance to the people’s doorsteps but, only after disbanding the existing large provinces. There is no sense in making more provinces with over-lapping functions at multi-tiered tug-of-war avenues, only to hyper-inflate cost of governance only for scavenging resources in an inverted pyramid administration. Otherwise, it all becomes s marry-go-round of “divide and rule”.

  • M.Saeed

    Your predilections and antipathies are already well known now.
    I have always quoted my sources and still keep extra proofs of my statements and not like you sweeping and slanting things at whims.

    People can smell the truth from the writing tones and faulting tempers that are self confessions of ill-found. Moreover, the air of about faults never do any good to any.
    These are the lessons of age and as Ashfaq Ahmad would have said:
    ” Often we meet kids who are Babays but sometimes Babays are equally kids”.

  • Anonymous

    Hashim Sb

    Is there any point mentioning the most powerful and influential institution in Pakistan during the last quarter century, had so called ‘muhajir’ as its head. – twice – with one’s dictatorial rule spanning nearly 10 years!

    You may have come across a theory that the well educated muslims of central provinces, fearing the loss or reduction of their privileged status in the Indian Civil Service in the face majority population begining to compete, led them towards Pakistan. Is it a surprise that in a large population with even a small percentage of indiginous habitants having acquired the educational skills, the competition is tougher now? To add to that, the demography of Karachi too has changed over the last few decades and a certain group us no longer in majority as a census (if one is carried out fairly) would show.

    MQM’s proxies along with the other political proxies running as mafias are unfortunately a big problem. When a whole city comes to a standstill, what of those daily wagers who can’t feed their kin because a fellow in the comforts of London without the guts to turn up amongst his followers, has a fit. More is the pity that the follwers claim to be the most educated!

    • Peter Pan

      Qalim Sb: Missed you in the debate!
      Agree to every thing you say but -Why does do the people of Urban Sindh not have the right to manage their own local affairs.
      Either give them this right or merge Rural and Urban together!
      Why this hypocracy?

  • M.Saeed

    “Karachi is a mega-city and producing 70% revenue” is a contestable statement but, Karachi is is a mega-terror centre producing 70% of terror in Pakistan is a visible ground reality.

    Besides, Karachi is 11% of Pakistan and houses only 7% of the country’s Urdu speakers of migrant ancestors Other 93% are just well-knit Pakistanis living happily with others without a slightest discrimination.
    Those crying wolf should bend and see their hearts for solace, if they need the real truth.

  • M.Saeed

    “We have doomed the wolf not for what it is, but for what we deliberately and mistakenly perceive it to be –the mythologized epitome of a savage ruthless killer – which is, in reality, no more than a reflected image of ourself.”

    It is amazing how well Farley knew our wolf hiding in the flock of woolly-lambs. Although all of the self-serving politicians are ravenous predators but this man is the class apart having no equal in sight. And, like the mosquito’s mesmerizing anaesthetic power, he never allows his victim to know when and where he stings.

    • Peter Pan

      Truth really hurts, does it not!

    • Peter Pan

      Thie mosquito carries dengue!

  • Farheen Rizvi

    Let me count the atrocities of Pakistan and see who is behind all those:

    190s: Miss Jinnah lost election and Liaquatabad massacre happened in Karachi

    1963 Mirpur khas: 11 people died in sectarian killings.

    1971: Dacca fall and Pakistan broke into two pieces:

    1980s til Now: Baluchistan burning.

    1990s till now: Shias getting killed all over Pakistan.

    The country has no electricity, no gas, no water.

    health system, education system is rotten like dead rat. Schools of interior Sind and Punjab rural areas have turned into ghosts schools.

    the industries like airline, steel, textile are on death bed.

    Baluchistan and Northern areas asking for independence.

    Karachi has been surrounded by terrorists like Taliban, LeJ, SSP and gangs.

    No community is safe in Pakistan.

    And here we see a person promoting agendas of those who have brought Pakistan to her knees.

  • Peter Pan

    So merge Urban and Rural Sindh and take a further step towards integration!

  • Peter Pan

    Merge Urban and Rural sindh and push forward integration

  • M.Saeed

    “—Count the atrocities of Pakistan–”?
    Against who?
    Are you the same Farheen Rizvi?

    Can’t be the one only 3-posts old!