“All I need to do is order, and the Saathis will cut up those gathered at Teen Talwar with talwars.” – Altaf Hussain, chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
Last night, there was barely anyone who was unaware of these golden words uttered by Altaf Hussain whose political party was, until the elections of May 11, 2013, being conspicuously touted as “progressive” and “liberal”. Some shooters then followed up with Altaf Hussain’s threat, and injuries were reported at the Teen Talwar protest. It is a no-brainer who the shooters were.
MQM’s violent past and present is barely a secret. But for Altaf bhai, the man who claims to own Karachi through MQM, it is a new low to be threatening unarmed Karachiites from “the other side of the bridge” with direct violence.
What has brought about this desperation? Why is the MQM, allegedly the most popular party in Karachi, feeling threatened by a bunch of “burgers” who have gathered to make an anti-rigging statement in a constituency where the MQM itself has accepted unfair elections?
Here is why. Since NA-250 was formed as a constituency in the 2002 elections, it has been a weak point for the MQM, which wants nothing more than complete control over Karachi by hook or by crook.
In 2002, Nasreen Jalil – who later became the deputy mayor of Karachi – lost the seat by 2,048 votes to Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s Abdul Sattar Afghani. This was a wake-up call for the MQM – here is a constituency that we must try to capture next time, how dare someone take it from under our noses!
However, not much was made of it because MQM, being the opportunists that they are, happily enjoyed their position as the rulers of the city as the Musharraf administration had put in place local bodies and MQM’s Mustafa Kamal became the mayor of Karachi (and did some great work for the city).
In 2008, however, they knew that they must win this seat in order to perfect their hegemony over Karachi. Khushbakht Shujaat, who the MQM is hoping to have declared winner this time around as well, won by a margin of 10,000 votes and secured 53,295 votes against PPP’s Mirza Ikhtiyar Baig.
Come 2013, and the MQM realizes that the burgeoning population in Defence and Clifton is obviously aware of MQM’s thuggish ways and political incapability and is inclined towards the PTI. So inclined that the PTI has just as strong a shot at winning NA-250 as MQM. If you saw footage of the PTI dharna yesterday against MQM’s poll rigging in NA-250, you would see that there is no way that MQM’s Khushbakht Shujaat could have won the seat without some serious competition from Dr. Arif Alvi. The rest, we all know. Closed polling stations, torn polling slips and MQM workers harassing the people who had come out to vote and were clearly not going to vote for the MQM.
PTI supporters have not taken to this kindly. Not only have they gathered enough evidence of rigging to submit to the ECP’s election tribunals, they have also decided to voice their protest openly into the street. And that is what has troubled the MQM as much as the fact that they clearly do not have a grip on this city unless they try to force people to accept it. Before this, the residents of Karachi have taken every insult to their intelligence from the MQM sitting down. Nobody stood up to them – nobody told them that the city isn’t theirs, it is the residents’. And now that a group of “burgers” has come out to stand up to them, their “progressive” and “liberal” leader has felt shockwaves right up to London.
It is important to note here that Karachi’s support to the PTI has been evident in constituencies other than NA-250 as well. There are other constituencies in Karachi where PTI candidates managed to garner votes and come in second to MQM candidates, which is evidence that the people of Karachi would vote out the MQM, given the chance. Interestingly, the MQM has realized that there is a new kid on the block and, like the brats that they have always been, they want all the attention back.
Furthermore, despite the rigging and intimidation of voters, results show that MQM has still lost. The PML-N does not need the MQM’s support to form a government in the center and the PPP does not need MQM to form a government in Sindh. And what have our MQM brothers done whenever they see their relevance dwindling? Play politics. Create unrest in the city that they wish they owned.
It is not as if PTI’s exposé of the rigging on a couple of seats will somehow topple the mandate that MQM have gotten in Karachi. That is not what the PTI is, or at least should be, aiming for. But this protest is about a bigger principle – the MQM does not own Karachi, and there is a section of residents, mobilized primarily by PTI, who have decided to tell the MQM that to their face. And the “giants” are now feeling insecure.
More power to the protesters who are asking for their constitutional right to vote.
More power to the people.
RE-ELECTION IN NA-250.
Long live, Pakistan.
Note: The stats come from the websites of the Election Commission of Pakistan and Geo TV.