Karachi – Time to call a spade a spade! Take II

By Yasser Latif Hamdani

(This article represents my personal view alone and PTH as a body does not own or disown it. Unlike some other self styled “liberal” websites which excel in Mcarthyite Neo-jiyalism, we like to present all points of view on this website.)

The violence that erupted in Karachi recently has once again prompted all and sundry to point fingers at MQM. Enough has been written against MQM and I am sure for good reason but there are always two sides to a story and it was that other side that I discovered on a recent trip to Karachi.

I am not an MQM apologist. My attempt is simply to present the other side of the story to balance out what I feel is a one-sided representation. As a lawyer I feel strongly about no body being condemned unheard. The tension between the Urdu speaking community and other groups in Karachi hit at the very root of our identity as Pakistanis. The Urdu speaking, mocked by our up-country liberals and conservatives alike as “Urdas” and “hindustoras”, are composed of many ethnicities united by common language and the historical narrative of partition and migration. The Urdu speaking are relatively secular, modern and integrated in the world. It was their hardwork and enterprise that made a mid-sized city in Sindh into a grand city of global significance.

Opposing them are the indigenous ethnonationalists. Forget that all of these groups also sympathise with separatist movements and narratives but when it comes to laying claim to Karachi they all become “indigenous Pakistanis”.  This inherent contradiction in the stance of ANP, various Sindhi parties and the Baloch groups in Karachi would be amusing had it not been so utterly tragic. If Pushtuns have a claim on Karachi it can only be as Pakistanis because otherwise Karachi and Peshawar are very far apart and if Pakistan is that factor that unites the two, then the Urdu speaking are at the core of that national identity having put their faith in this land and given countless sacrifices for it.

MQM is lampooned and demonised for being a violent and terrorist party. It is only because after decades of reversals, it stood up to speak for its people and I am sure excesses were committed. However Altaf Hussain was a god send for the Urdu speaking. For all his faults, and he is no angel, Altaf taught them to stand up for themselves. In a tough neighborhood, where once dictator Ayub Khan’s son Gauhar Ayub had put on a  shameless display of Pushtun celebration in Urdu speaking areas after his father rigged the elections to beat Fatima Jinnah, one has to toughen up and Altaf Hussain was the product of that ethnic environment. Had the “indigenous” Pakistanis been more forthcoming to the “Mohajirs”, there would have been no need. Instead parochialism and vested self interests have ruled the day and the memory of massacres such as Qasba Aligarh and the infamous 1992 operation continue to evoke hatred.

If Altaf Hussain is eccentric today, it is because of the burden he carries with him. He is a shadow of the larger than life figure that he was before the army operation crippled his people and killed his brother and nephew. In a way he is a victim of circumstance not just those created by the state but excessive hagiography that surrounds him.  I cannot help but see the similarity with Yasser Arafat. Altaf Hussain too came bearing an olive branch but was forced to choose the gun. He still holds that olive branch but are we going to give MQM a chance. If Sinn Feinn could emerge as a force of moderation, so can MQM.

A visit to nine-zero shows just how organised and disciplined the MQM cadres are. It is – say what you may- the only party where party comes above individuals and where individual voter can hold his elected representative accountable. This is why countless MQM senators, ministers and legislators are found at the headquarters listening to constituents’ grievances, making their own tea and fixing office registers. I wish other claimants of urban middle class vote, like Imran Khan, would go to nine zero and see how a true middle class party is actually run.

 I must confess I did not find any torture chambers (these were clearly well disguised) nor did I presume that the soft spoken ladies and gents I came across, including the elegant Ms. Nasreen Jaleel, were capable of violence. This is not to say that MQM is incapable of violence. They come from a long tradition of street fighting but these ladies and gents strike me as reasonable people who would first explore logically all avenues of reconciliation. I do not deny that my impressions are formed by the picture presented to me.

Anyone who drives by the famed “Cutty Pahari” in Karachi can see that MQM today seems to be fighting a battle not just for its survival but for the survival of Pakistan’s largest city and commercial hub.  The sandy mountains at the edge of North Nazimabad – once completely- deserted are now encroached completely by illegal squatters which is also a haven for Taliban and Al Qaeda militants. ANP’s wants a constituency in Karachi and the powers that be are willing to deliver it. In the 2008 elections, ANP won the vote that previously went to JUI-F and JI. In other words, ethnic and linguistic fissures are transcending ideology but that surely means that ANP now speaks not just for the secular Pushtun in Karachi. ANP to the extent of Karachi also speaks for the Islamist elements that previously supported the MMA.  (I am willing to be corrected on this count if I am wrong.)

 While ANP continues to lose good people in its party to terrorism in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, its local leadership in Karachi seems to have turned a blind eye to this menace. Then you have a responsible central minister from the party threatening widespread bloodshed in Karachi. This from the party that claims non-violence to be its creed.

Both MQM and ANP are coalition partners of the PPP in the center as well in the Sindh Assembly. Karachi is their collective responsibility. It seems though that the PPP is not playing the role in should have: of dealing with MQM and ANP impartially and fairly.  MQM is a political reality which cannot be wished away. If coopted it can do great things for the city of Karachi as was evident from their tenure in the City District Government. Therefore the need of the hour is for Asif Ali Zardari to hark back to that original policy of reconciliation he embarked on two years ago. As for the ANP, its central leadership should make a choice. It cannot go on fighting Taliban in Khyber and supporting them in Karachi.



Filed under Pakistan

13 responses to “Karachi – Time to call a spade a spade! Take II

  1. AAR

    A very good article…

  2. O J DEEN


  3. Rashid Aurakzai


  4. YLH


    I am open to be educated otherwise.

    Please tell me where I am wrong in stating the above.

  5. Rashid Aurakzai

    Only one visit enough to know Karachi reality?

    Isn’t it a Very quick judgement Wakeel Saab?

    Were you expecting to be ushered into torture-rooms with hanging bodies and Jalaads?

    Don’t we have words like Paindoos, Pahariyays, Ganwaars, shehri baboos, siyanrays, naayee, meraacee, kami kameen, bay nasla etc even for our next door neighbors and does that justify genocide?

    Are ‘others’ alone prejudiced about MQM and they are innocent?

    Was Karachi better before or after 80s when this menace sprouted?

    Which ‘indigenous’ ethnicity is claiming Karachi to be theirs only except MQM?

    Who is thinking of Jinnahpur?

    Aren’t you again falsely assuming all migrated Pakistanis to be belonging to MQM?

    Have you ever come across the civilized gentry of Delhi, CP or UP in Karachi and know their love for the Ku Klux Klan?

    Why credit MQM which was not even born when all democrats and even JI sided with Fatimah Jinnah against the usurper?

    Aren’t you targeting Pakhtoons for the military excess against Karachites by Ayub’s sons who himself is in forefront to part ways with Pakhtoonkhwa to have his own Hazarewal identity?

    Altaf and Yaser Arafat? I think you wrote that out of your ‘Murrawat’ for eating Biryani, Nihari, Bihari Kababs, Haleem etc at 90 Azizabad.

    Talibans if harbored by ANP and they want Army’s operation too in Karachi, MQM should welcome it instead. Shouldn’t it.

    But I pray you dont kicked out for this type of crap from PTH. I felt bad when Awais Masood called you a pseudo-intellectual and ” a wannabe cheapster who takes pro-establishment nationalist lines just to be a part of it.”

  6. YLH

    First of all… PTH is not LUBP… I cannot be kicked out for expressing my point of view. That kind of fascism happens only there. So you don’t need to worry on that count…

    Secondly… I have repeatedly acknowledged that even Bacha Khan and Wali Khan supported Fatima Jinnah. My point is specific to Karachi where Pushtuns have been used by the establishment on occasion as much as the Mohajirs if not more. The irony of Gohar Ayub now championing Hazarwals in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa… is not just tragic … it should also give Shahi Syed types reason to pause.

    Third… it is not 90 Azizabad. 90 refers to the last two digits of the phone number.

    Four- I have admitted above that this as partial a view as the view against MQM… and that it is based on a visit to MQM headquarters and on discussions with the MQM leadership.

    Five- Are you saying that Mohajirs are not being killed in the violence in Karachi?

  7. Jazak Allah

    Jazak Allah Khair – this post is not unexpected. You are eligible to be regularly published in Express Tribune from now on – even deserve a ‘package’ from them !

    Time for Raza Rumi to worry about his blog!

  8. YLH

    It seems like everyone except Raza Rumi himself is worried about “his blog”. Raza Rumi will probably point out as the founder and editor of this blog that he does not own this blog nor is it just a blog but a blogzine.

    When Raza published Aurakzai’s one sided article, PTH was the epitome of fairness… when I published a counter-view, fascists and neo-jiyalas from LUBP are petitioning Raza to “worry about his blog”.

    Crooks that is what you liars over there at LUBP are. Have some shame at long last and learn to accept that there might be points of view that might differ from yours.

  9. Humane

    The sindhis, some pashtuns and a lot of settled punjabis blame us for whatever that happens in the city and want us to leave. But many others open heartedly support our right to live here.

    And about Jinnahpur : Why would they name their breakaway country with the name of the founder of their previous country. Wouldn’t it make sense to name it “Altafpur” or something else. And Brig. Imtiaz himself said that “Jinnahpur” was fabricated.
    I’m no MQM apologist but this MQM bashing has turned into mohajir bashing all around. Seriously, we cant even visit some areas near cutty pahari for the fear of being looted or beaten. Nobody with a “pantshirt” getup is welcomed there. I’m curious to hear about ylh’s
    experience in those areas.

  10. Yogs

    One of the greavest crimes in our part of the world is to call a thief a thief. Infact its infinite times more sinister then calling a good man a good man. The entire society comes out armed with logic, law , human rights, compassion, and care to defend a thief.
    Raza rumi is showing signs of a virus that affects all the liberals of south asia.
    Calling a spade a spade is a virtue that very very very few people possess because it takes guts and courage.
    Our community is apt at showing “guts and courage” when they act as part of a mob out to lynch an individual. I come from india, and i am saying it from my own experience.

    Recently my 25 year-old neighbour slapped and beat his 65 year old neighbour. The 65 year old neighbour did not dare to go to police because he has a young daughter and is pretty much sure that the 25 year-old will start harassing his daughter if he complained to the poilce. Needless to say all the people of our neighbourhood are supporting the 25 year old.

  11. O J DEEN

    : “O ye who believe! seek help with patience and prayer; surely, Allah is with the steadfast.” (2:154)

    Once a sahabi asked the Holy Prophet Muhammd (saw) about this and said how long we should remain patient.
    Another hadith where a companion asked the Holy Prophet (saw) “Do you pray for us that Allah may reduce our hardships.”
    The Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) replied,
    “There have been people before you who had their graves dug and then a rod would be brought and they would be hit in the head and the head would be split in pieces but they would remain steadfast till the end.
    Sometimes a steel comb would be used to rip open a momin’s flesh, the bones would be crushed, but he would still remain steadfast.”

    By giving this example, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) explained to his companions the golden principle of a righteous community that there will be trials and tribulations, but if you pray and are patient and remain steadfast then you will overcome this.

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  13. hassan

    Yasser Lateef Hamdani is famous in all over Pakistan after this article based on facts….
    He is the another practical journalist after Hassan Nisar, Dr Ajmal Niazi, Lucman and Nazeer Naji