MQM bubble about to burst?

May 23, 2013

Tension in Karachi–New wave of violence on the cards?

MQM is going through tense internal wrangling that might lead to a new wave of violence involving infighting among various groups.

While the entire media dreads to report or analyze, the party is headed for a big internal crisis. And it is not just about the MQM rivalry with Imran Khan. Nor is it about MQM’s isolation from virtually every group.

MQM politics may have come to a full circle, finally. The party stands isolated and does not have a friend among political parties—whether they are religious parties as JUI or JI; nationalist parties of Sindhi, Baloch or, heaven’s sake, Pashtun variety or even mainstream political parties. PML (N) has a history of starting the first operation against the MQM way back in the 1990s. It may still nurture, if not anathema for the bad memories of the May 12 bloodshed. And Nawaz Sharif does not need MQM in his government formation in Islamabad.

This might be equally true of PPP also. Asif Zardari might want to take along MQM in his government for the sake of harmony in Sindh–but on his own terms. It’s elementary– he does not need their numbers for making a government in Sindh. He might just leave MQM on a lurch if it tried to haggle over its traditional stance on local bodies or delimitation. Zardari might not mind a little tension to win back his Sindhi voters and activate his Sindh card through some ethnic tension.

All of this may have happened at the wrong time for MQM. It is going through a severe internal crisis. Altaf Bhai may have transgressed his moral authority in the party by over-reacting through his aggressive speech last week. The media remains forcibly silenced over the mess that happened at the MQM meeting. Senior MQM leaders were thrashed; journalist beaten and kept hostage the whole night; Things came to a pass when some sector commanders broke ranks and called in their own armed brigades to save their immediate leaders against Altaf Bhai’s orders. This was almost a rebellion. A few names from top MQM ranks are afloat for possible reprisals or target-killings.

Those who got beaten up may have apologized publicly but nurse a grudge against the leadership. Some of them are openly feeding information to outsiders. Also, many fear for their life. Tension prevails in the party for a new wave of violence that might be out of control even for Altaf Bhai. The maverick leader fights the toughest challenge to his rule—and at a time when he is also pressured from the British government to mend his ways.

The electronic media in Karachi has been pressured not to let the actually happenings come out. Most TV channels are abiding by the rules to save their ratings and businesses controlled by MQM. Others fear for their lives as warnings have been issued. The whole city lives under tension as many media barons have already flown out to Dubai and elsewhere.

This can threaten peace of not just Karachi but create new problems for the new governments in Sindh and Islamabad.

We keep our fingers crossed.