Categorized | South Asian Politics

MQM: Pre-positioning itself for post-PPP Government

Posted on 01 September 2010 by .

In Pakistan the political leaders do not rise above their partisan interests and stay in the news by raising controversies.  Invariably each party equates its party interest and agenda with the national interest.  They often pursue confrontational discourse in an election-campaign mode.  What they do not realize is that their self-centered approach and mutual confrontation does not help their reputation. They are seen as less sensitive to the challenges to the state and the problems of the common people.

The latest and ill-timed controversy was initiated by the MQM chief, Altaf Hussain, on August 22.  He said in a telephonic talk from London: “The MQM will openly support the patriotic generals if they take any martial law type action against corrupt politicians and feudal lords.”  He also said, “If these generals can topple political and democratic governments they can also take steps to weed out corrupt politicians and feudal lords.” Defending these statements, Farooq Sattar, a senior MQM leader, said that “the country [was] in the ICU (intensive care unit) and needs surgery.”

In another interview Altaf Hussain demanded that the Supreme Court should invoke article 190 of the Constitution to summon the military to take action against the corrupt leaders and exploiters, including the feudal elements.

It is interesting to note that despite wooing the generals, Altaf Hussain thinks that he is neither encouraging the generals to remove the existing political and constitutional framework nor asking them to impose martial law.   This view is not shared by other political parties that have condemned his statements.  They think that Altaf Hussain is giving subtle signal to the military to directly enter the political domain. These leaders also do not favour the Supreme Court assuming executive authority to take action on the lines suggested by Altaf Hussain.

Martial law type action cannot be undertaken without imposing martial law. The military cannot take such an action without removing the present political order and setting aside the constitution.    Similarly, if the Supreme Court acts on the advice of Altaf Hussain, it will amount to overwhelming the executive which will adversely affect the prospect of democracy and political stability in Pakistan.

Altaf Hussain’s statement has three major problems.   First, there is no provision in the constitution that allows the military to take “martial law type” action to purge what he calls corrupt politicians and feudal lords. Similarly, expansion of the role of the Supreme Court on the lines suggested by the MQM will be harmful for the future of democracy.

Second, the MQM is part of the coalition government at the federal level and in the province of Sindh. It should have used its influence with the ruling partners to deal with these issues. The MQM could have moved a resolution in both houses of the parliament and in Sindh Assembly in support of its demand. Alternatively, the MQM could have moved a bill in the National Assembly for making laws to strip the feudal of their land.  Instead, it has bypassed the parliament and its coalition partners and made a direct appeal to the military for a direct intervention in the political domain.

Third, Altaf Hussain wants to use the military and the Supreme Court for fulfilling its party agenda. If these two institutions follow the advice, Pakistan will face more problems.  Pakistan’s experience suggests that the military does not play any political party’s game. If it ever assumes power in the future, it will pursue its own agenda.

Altaf Hussain’s statement is an attempt to deflect the pressures generated by other political parties on its monopolistic position in urban Sindh, especially Karachi. The ANP is more active in Karachi now than was the case three years ago.  The Sunni Tehrik is also making inroads into Karachi.  Further, militant/sectarian groups are beyond the control of the MQM. The same can be said about various gangs that engage in land grabbing and other criminal activities.

Consequently, the MQM finds it hard to sustain its capacity to control reward and punishment in Karachi.  The MQM anger is building not only against the ANP but also against the PPP.  In this fight for domain in Karachi, Altaf Hussain wants to solicit the military’s support.

Another possible explanation is that Altaf Hussain must have come to the belief that the latest speculative reports that the Supreme Court might disqualify President Asif Ali Zardari and the military might apply pressure to replace the federal government with a government of its choice.  Therefore, he may have decided to pre-position the MQM for the post-PPP era.   It is a message to the military and the superior judiciary that if they take action against the present rulers the MQM’s support will be available.

Pakistan’s experience suggests that the military rule and the administrative solutions do not resolve the political and economic problems. The MQM’s latest agenda would undermine constitutionalism and democracy and drag the military into unnecessary controversies, diverting its attention from helping the flood-affected people and countering terrorism.

Author: Dr. Hassan Askari

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