By: Iqbal Tareen, Washington, DC

– May 1, 2009

Ethnic violence in Karachi-MQM’s broken moral compass

I was thrilled to see a joint press conference held by Pakistan People’s Party home minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Dr Farooq Sattar and Awami National Party leader Amin Khattak in which they declared not to side with the perpetrators of ethnic violence in Karachi. I should have known it was too good to be true. Within a few hours another press conference called by MQM demanded a selective enforcement of the law.

The MQM Rabita Committee complained that the law enforcement agencies had launched a campaign to take away fire arms from “Everyone” in the city. It really revealed the broken moral compass of a party that aspires to be a Pakistan based party from Kiamari to Kashmir.

How could any party dream of fairly governing a country that does not have an appetite or mindset to treat residents of same city as equals?

Although MQM has taken a moral stand against the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan (Which I appreciate very much) but many have suspected its immoral objectives behind this campaign. Although the party leadership engages in a good talk but it continues to advance parochial pursuits

in its practice.

Leveraging the Taliban issue, MQM leadership has been very vocal spinning ideas and actions, which lead to a false perception that “All Pashtoons are terrorists and all terrorists are Pashtoons” Playing an Anti-Taliban card, MQM for months has been creating an environment of

confrontation between Pashtoon and non-Pashtoon populations of Karachi. The party and its machinery has been aggressively busy in its onshore and offshore propaganda campaigns in creating a perception that MQM is the only anti-Taliban force in Pakistan that has the

muscle and organization to confront religious extremism in the country especially in the strategic port city of Pakistan. MQM has succeeded in scoring a few points with anti-Taliban and pro-democracy forces around the world not because of the content of their wisdom but because of the failure or in-action of other political parties and

secular forces in the country.

The question is how did MQM get a freehand in playing Anti-Taliban card effectively? What happened to Sindhi and Baloch nationalists who have been genuinely secular and more tolerant of religious diversity?

What happened to progressive Pakistani thinkers, writers, poets, Labor and Hari movements in Pakistan? Are the human rights and women rights activists and platforms sleeping at the switch? Is lawyer’s movement in Pakistan clung to the interests of its professional class alone or

does it have the supremacy of law and constitutional governance near to its soul? The only person who is making some noise against the hypocrisy of MQM is Imran Khan and he also is swung on the extreme wrong side of the issue.

MQM took a high road on many issues posing common threat to province and people of Sindh. Especially on the issue of water distribution MQM has usually treated it as problem of rural Sindh only. It seems Sindh rights activists are also falling into a similar stumble by assuming that the war against Taliban is not Sindh’s war. I see a growing apathy in Sindh Rights movements toward MQM/Pashtoon ethnic conflict in Karachi. This conflict has a far reaching fatal spillover effect on the peace and harmony in the province of Sindh and in Pakistan. MQM

leadership has been so short-sighted in managing this issue that it has spotted itself as an organization incapable of delivering equal social justice and civil rights to diverse population groups. It is also doing the greatest disservice to the residents of Karachi who

have voted MQM to power to make their beloved city a seat of industrial peace and free from any ethnic or religious strife.

As far as the Sindh Rights activists are concerned, they should remember that the Pashtoons and other ethnic minority groups are the cementing factor that keeps Karachi glued to the remaining Sindh province. The day MQM is successful in removing Pashtoons the Punjabi

population will be the next target. One after another MQM will close the circle on most minority ethnic groups and the city will fall to MQM’s ultimate dream of Akhand Sooba. MQM’s newly found love for Baloch movement is also seen by many as part of its greater expansionist strategy in Balochistan capturing Gwadar Port and grabbing the virgin coastal real estate of the province.

Although mainstream political parties including PPP and ANP got a black eye in the process of appeasing the Taliban but their politics, core values, and practices are more secular than their rival parties in the country. Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) being a product of Zia’s era – a Godfather of a Taliban movement hold a tender heart for religious groups in the country. Both Pakistan Muslim League (N) and Imran Khan see a natural vote base for their parties in growth of religious forces in Pakistan. I am afraid if Mian Nawaz Shariff and

his party did not wake up to this malignancy, PML (N) will become the largest and the most powerful carrier of Taliban influence in the country. Faced with split heart and failure to grapple with the mounting battle between state and religious extremists, PML (N) will ultimately become a victim of political stagnation.

Pakistan People’s Party being surrounded by predatory forces inside the barracks and out on the streets has been pushed into an uneasy wedlock with MQM in its base province of Sindh. This is an un-natural alliance, which is forced by the fear of mutual destruction, instability in the province, and under the weight of heavy obligations

of common offshore friends. PPP’s own inherent incompetence and failure to deliver within whatever constraints is not helping the party assert its mandate at local or national level.

As the world turns its attention to the looming threat of Taliban in Pakistan – a vital buffer state between Central and South & SE Asia, the MQM will up the ante projecting itself as the only torch bearer of progressive Pakistan. If liberal and progressive forces in the country

left the field open for MQM the real cause of progressive and inclusive Pakistan will become irrelevant. But if a powerful progressive movement emerged in Pakistan even MQM might find it difficult to abuse the anti-Taliban card for its political gains.

In my opinion, progressive Pakistanis can’t afford the luxury of simply being spectators. If they continued to stay on the sidelines, very soon they will become the collateral targets of battling forces.

I do not know of any event when the grass won in the battle of the bulls. If you want to make a real change in the destiny of the poor men, women, children, and millions of silent Pakistanis who want to live in peace and dignity, know your natural allies and natural foes.

Shelve your internal difference for now and pick them up when the time is right. Stand up and be counted. Fill up the streets and tell the world you are sick and tired of playing along with “either/or” option.

You have reached a point in history where abstention means a defeat.

You can create your own political Tsunami by defeating both the Jihadis and the parochial totalitarians.

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