The MQM paradox - George Fulton

Ammad Hafeez

Minister (2k+ posts)
MQM politicians are a remarkably down-to-earth lot.


The writer is a freelance print and broadcast journalist [email protected]

Well done Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan! The governor of Sindh opened up his house to members of the public last week. Students, katchi abadi children and volunteering women descended upon the Governor House. Every room in the mansion was ablaze with activity.

Working in an assembly line the helpers packed over 50,000 boxes of clothes and supplies for the flood affected people. Boxes were then loaded onto coaches loaned from public universities and delivered directly to the camps by enthusiastic students.

On chand raat the governor bussed in flood affectees from Jacobabad. They were given a lavish dinner, complete with food donated by McDonalds. Little touches took it beyond a mere cynical photo-op. Bouncy castles, clowns and eidi were supplied for the children to enjoy.

Chooris and clothes were given to the adult attendees. The governor wandered around chatting with people, ensuring that people were having a good time. At one point he began talking to a volunteer. Sensing that the person was in the middle of some urgent work, he urged the person to carry on and apologised for disturbing him. How many other politicians can you imagine doing that?

In the world of VIP culture, MQM politicians are a remarkably down-to-earth lot. The likes of Dr Ishrat and Mustafa Kamal display a lack of pretension and pomposity rare in Pakistani politicians. These are people that get their hands dirty and genuinely appear to want to improve their surroundings. For progressives, their political outlook is attractive. The governors vision for Sindh reads as follows: We see Sindh in the future, a province with a fully developed civil society, a society which is culturally sophisticated, intellectually matured, tolerant in behaviour, enlightened and progressive in outlook, a society with improved social indicators, full literacy, highly qualified human resource, full employment, low poverty and having a reasonable social security system to cater for the needs of deprived sections of the population.

However, the MQM paradox is that it is a political party of the future, hampered by its past. Rapid urbanisation and a growing professional middle class in Pakistan should increase its natural voter bank in the years ahead. Whether it will, remains to be seen. It is a party of the professionals, with more doctors, lawyers, and accountants in their ranks than any other political party. Avowedly secular, staunchly anti-feudal, the MQM presents a future that many in Pakistan tired of sectarian violence and the old duopoly of the PML and the PPP should be able to identify with. But many still dont. They should be a national party, but cant escape the confines of their Karachi stronghold
Thats were the past catches up. Despite recent recruitment drives in Punjab, the MQM has failed to shake off its ethnic origins. Re-b*****ng the party from Muhajir to Muttahida failed to rid the perception that it is anything but a party for Urdu speakers. The partys reputation for being involved in violence has also hindered its acceptance into the mainstream.

Then there is Altaf Hussain. Mr Hussain remains in London. Nor does he look to be returning anytime soon (unlike another London exile). Can a leader in permanent exile really ever hope to attract broad national support? If Mr Hussain plans to remain in London, he should allow a strong leader to emerge in Pakistan that complements his vision of the party.

If the MQM is serious about becoming a national political party, these structural issues will need to be addressed. They will also need to acknowledge the negative perception that still lingers in many potential voters minds. It needs to go further in convincing non-loyalists that the MQM has changed; that the party is no longer the ethnic party of old, but a progressive, modern party that can bring about real fundamental reforms to Pakistan. If it can do that, then electoral success, outside of Karachi, may follow. Who knows, maybe one day well see the doors of Prime Ministers House opened to the public as well?



Politcal Worker (100+ posts)
I would little disagree with Mr. George's "MQM Past Baggage" point of paradox.I would say this "Past Baggage" isn't just the story of past because the recent politically motivated target killing sprees in the city are the same side of the same coin.So this is an ongoing process taking different courses from time to time for the same objectives.As along as the same central message is being reverberated from MQM's ghetto all the good stuff will be over shadowed. Organizational behaviour research tells us that organizational culture needs radical changes in its building blocks to send a new message across. Changing party name, media spinning and Mustafa Kamal's work haven't left any significant impressions to popularise its ideology.

We always read Mr Altaf's condolences and congratulation statements for civil society people like writers,poets ,players and so on.But one can smell the racial biases behind it.One recent example is the absence of (+ive) gestures on AisalmulHaq's victory.
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