May issue 2009
Interview: Haider Abbas Rizvi
“Why are Karachiites waiting for something
terrible to happen before they wake up?”
– Haider Abbas Rizvi
Deputy Parliamentary Leader, National Assembly, MQM
Q: What does the MQM have to say about what happened in the city on April 29?
A: It was, of course, a painful event and the whole city, including us, is unhappy about it. Everyone knows that the grip of the mafia in the entire city is getting stronger. We have the land mafia and the drug mafia, and when they collude with each other, the situation in the city gets worse. Everyone saw what happened in the city on December 27, 2008, when Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was martyred.
Q: According to the MQM, four of its workers were killed in the city (two in North Karachi and two in Natha Khan Goth). Soon after these deaths, certain elements went on a shooting spree in the city. Was this the sequence of events?
A: People in the MQM-dominated area of North Karachi were fired upon, killing two people and a young person also received bullet wounds. The Rangers tried to control these miscreants but they also were targeted. The Rangers then conducted an operation and recovered weapons and artillery from the area.
This area has a history of land-grabbing scandals, and unfortunately, the City District Government (CDGK) only has 33% control over Karachi’s administration. The rest is not under the control of the CDGK and belongs to other agencies, including the Board of Revenue. Since the prices of land have increased, resulting in more control for these mafias and has given rise to many other criminal activities such as kidnapping for ransom, robberies, etc. It’s the same in all the outskirts of Karachi.
Q: But what were the reasons behind the shootings in the city?
A: When the Rangers started the operation in the area, these people spread violence to the rest of the city to divert attention. And then people also added their own perspectives to these events. Some saw sectarianism in it; some interpreted it in the light of linguistic differences. But the root cause is the land mafia. Earlier, we had also said that a lot of capital went from this city to the Taliban operating in the north-western part of the country, and this is an important source of funding for them.
Q: Since the MQM is part of the government, why doesn’t it utilise its resources to get rid of such elements?
A: We are coalition partners in the government; we are a part of the government, but we are not the government. We try to sit together with our coalition partners like the ANP and the PPP in an effort to resolve these issues as soon as possible. Our leader, Altaf Hussain, appeared on all major television channels and appealed to the masses to remain calm, and this is on record. So, we use our capabilities to the maximum for maintaining peace in the city, because we are very conscious of the fact that this city generates 68% of the country’s revenue and the country, in the economic situation that it is in now, cannot afford to have trade activities come to a standstill in Karachi.
Q: Are you saying that the major coalition partners do not listen to you or that they’re not sincere?
A: Several such incidents have occured in the past. We kept pointing to the real situation but we do not have any authority or control over the police force. You can see that in the last five years, when we had control over the police force, all criminals involved in sectarian killings or suicide bombings or other major criminal activities were arrested or detained.
Q: What you’re saying is that the PPP, a coalition partner, has not made any efforts to rid this city of criminal elements?
A: Even if some efforts are being made, we cannot see their results because probably they’re not as effective as they should be.
Q: According to the ANP, the people who migrated to Karachi and the internally displaced from Malakand and the tribal areas, are not part of the Taliban. The PPP supports this stand of the ANP by terming the concerns of the MQM about Talibanisation baseless. Would you comment?
A: I think this debate is over because the international media has seen everything; they have covered the events and have independently reported them. The secret reports of the different Pakistani agencies have also been shown on television. Express News published a secret report that was going to the CCPO Karachi. The presence of Baitullah Mehsud’s second-in- command, Hasan Mehsud, in Karachi, the names of people helping them, their hideouts in Karachi, people being captured, SSP Farooq Awan’s raid and the injuries he received during it etc.- these are the kinds of details that we keep receiving. We will have to control the situation.
As far as the people coming from the northern areas is concerned, we are not saying that all those people are Taliban, but we do demand a check to find out the backgrounds these people are coming from, to see how many of them have actually been displaced, and how many have just fled those areas strategically as a war tactic. And Baitullah Mehsud’s spokesperson, Mullah Umar, has very categorically stated that their presence in Karachi is so strong that they can take over the city any time they are ordered to do so. For 22 years, we kept saying that they would do this with the whole country. The world changed its stance on Taliban and Talibanisation, people voted for the Nizam-e-Adl; ours is the only party that has not changed its stand. Although we are in a minority even in the parliament with only 25 members, we’re still firm on our stance. But why are Karachiites waiting for something terrible to happen, before they wake up?
Q: These concerns of the MQM are not new. But three major parties are together in a coalition. What, then, is the reason that a consensus has not yet been developed? Why is the MQM’s stance not being given any importance? And in this situation, why is the MQM still a part of the government?
A: I think you should direct this question to those who oppose this stance. I have explained to you our position very categorically. Speaking of being part of the government, we voice our disagreements too even when we are a part of it. All parties but the MQM supported the Nizam-e-Adl resolution. The MQM openly opposed the resolution and we’re proud of that fact.
Q: Your party agrees with the ANP about the land mafia being behind the recent incidents? What stops you from taking action against them? Again, why is there no consensus?
A: You yourself said that the PPP and the ANP believe that the land mafia are the root cause of all this. In order to control these incidents, the efficiency of law-enforcement agencies, especially of the police, counts a lot. Obviously, we can only request our coalition partners to take action because they have control over the police.
Q: So, did any consensus emerge or not?
A: The police, of course, have been told to control this more effectively, but they do not seem to be interested. The Rangers tried their best to control the situation, especially when it worsened in the area of North Karachi. They also received injuries and we appreciate their efforts, but this work should actually have been done by the police. It should act at the call of the organisations that own the lands, be it the CDA, the Cantonment Board, the Board of Revenue, or the Railways. And our police hasn’t really been successful in this.
Q: So what are you doing about it?
A: We had a meeting with the chief minister; we also had one with the prime minister. We are raising this issue with people at the most important positions. Had we got the control, we would have answered the question. Let’s see what happens in the future.
Also, all the parties have a lot of interaction at the higher levels but we need to take this communication to the grassroots’ level to increase effectivity and this is what we are working on right now.
Q: So, is there a consensus within the government that action will be taken against all criminal or extremist elements?
A: Yes, of course. There are no two views about it. Criminals are criminals and action has to be taken against them. We cannot disagree on this.
Q: There is an influx of people from the northern areas, from the west, east etc. How does the MQM plan to work with other political parties in the future?
A: We are not worried about the influx of people from other areas because the MQM has taken part in the elections eight times and every time, we had won with a sweeping majority. This time too, the MQM has 17 out of 19 seats. Do you think these votes came from one particular section of the society? No. People from every strata of society vote for the MQM. People belonging to different linguistic backgrounds vote for the MQM. If we have a town nazim from SITE who is a Pakhtun, we have one in Baldia who is a Punjabi. Four out of six of our senators are not Urdu-speaking. So, we don’t have any such problems.