April Issue 2016

By | News & Politics | Q & A | Published 3 years ago

Is the emergence of Mustafa Kamal a repeat of the attempt to splinter the MQM in the ’90s — a Haqiqi part 2?

Yes, it does seem like a half-hearted sequel to a disaster movie.

What are the similarities and differences between what is happening now and what happened during the ’90s?

Afaq bhai came to conquer Karachi with about 200 hundred boys who were very committed and very violent. MQM’s leadership had gone underground, but its cadres had the capacity to hit back. There were pitched battles in the streets. For Newsline I interviewed eight Haqiqi boys who had taken over Shah Faisal Colony. Within months, all but one were dead. Now MQM’s capacity for violence is largely diminished. It cannot even shut the city for a day. And Mustafa Kamal and co seem to think they can just sit in front of TV cameras and win over Karachi. At the end of their campaign, at least they have the option of returning to their day jobs abroad. Most Haqiqi boys didn’t have that luxury.

Do you think there will be more ruptures in the party and its vote bank? 

We’ll have to wait for Altaf bhai’s exit from this world, to witness any significant break-ups.

Do you think Afaq and his group could also benefit from this turn of events? Will people from the party join them and gain support from the MQM vote bank?

I guess Afaq bhai’s only success is that he is alive. Most people who started out with him are dead. I don’t think voters will consider him a serious alternative to the MQM. They haven’t for about 24 years now.

How do you view the future of the MQM, and what impact will the current state of affairs and how they develop, have on the people of Karachi?

The people of Karachi will keep suffering — and some will keep flourishing — unless we have a truly representative local government that controls law-enforcers. We don’t even know how many people live in Karachi, we have no idea where Karachi begins and where it ends. Also, you cannot have a stable Karachi without a stable Pakistan. You have violence in the North, it affects Karachi. Agriculture is destroyed in South Punjab, it affects Karachi. You can’t sort out Karachi without sorting out the rest of Pakistan.

Has Mustafa Kamal been propped up by the security establishment, as is being alleged?

I have no idea. He might have got a nod from them. But if they have actually propped him up, they haven’t done a very good job of it.

Will he be able to deliver what the Haqiqi couldn’t?

You can’t rent a house in DHA 5 and expect to dislodge the most well organised political party in the city with a few television sermons.

It is widely perceived that with the Rangers operation against the MQM in progress, there is a danger that all the party’s criminals will take refuge in Mustafa Kamal’s party. Do you agree?

Some might. But the state sees the entire MQM as a criminal enterprise. You can only carve out a small criminal enterprise from the mother party. MQM operates at the street level, and people tend to trust the boys who live amongst them, even if they are somewhat shady. Who isn’t in Karachi?

The MQM has survived many operations and splits within its ranks. Will it survive them this time too?

I think it already has.

This interview was originally published in Newsline’s April 2016 issue.

Farieha Aziz is a Karachi-based journalist and teacher. She joined Newsline in 2007, rising to assistant editor. Farieha was awarded the APNS award for Best Investigative Report (Business/Economic) for the year 2007-2008. She is a co-founder and Director at Bolo Bhi, an advocacy forum of Digital Rights.