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Altaf Hussain’s purge,Daily Times

 Date: 5/28/2013   Views:3917    Source: Daily Times
MQM chief Altaf Hussain has carried out one of the most radical purges in the party’s history. The party’s main Coordination (Rabita) Committee and the Karachi Tanzeemi (Organisational) Committee have been dissolved and replaced by a 23-member apex and 10-member Karachi committee. The ostensible reasons for these wholesale changes as quoted by Altaf Hussain in a speech from London to a general workers meeting in Jinnah Ground near the party’s Nine Zero headquarters on Sunday are violations of party discipline, corruption, mishandling workers of the party and intimidation of ordinary citizens. Allegations of elements of the MQM’s involvement in land grabbing also figure. Altaf Hussain categorically declared a policy of “no tolerance” for the “enemies of society” within the MQM’s ranks. He exhorted his newly installed leadership to treat the workers of the party with affection. This is an indication that trouble within the party centres on a group within the previous setup that stands accused of trying to acquire power in defiance of Altaf Hussain’s directives, purging of elements involved in criminal and corrupt practices at the expense of the citizens of Karachi, and winning back loyal committed workers alienated during the tenure of the previous leadership. Altaf warned that anyone involved in unacceptable activities would be expelled. Already, in the current shakeup, many bigwigs have been expelled, ostracized, or given an opportunity to mend their ways while working as ordinary workers of the party. Altaf Hussain warned his cadres not to get involved in bazaars that ostensibly sell goods cheaply, a source it is thought of illegal gratifications for the organisers or controllers of such bazaars. The biggest demotion is that of Dr Farooq Sattar, previously the Coordination Committee’s deputy convener, a position virtually equivalent to being the leader in Pakistan of the party as a whole. He has been ‘demoted’ to head the international and diplomatic committee of MQM, although compensated by being declared the parliamentary leader of the party in the National Assembly. Altaf in his speech criticised the previous coordination committee for not acting against those who ‘insulted’ him, a reference it is thought to the accusation by Imran Khan that Altaf Hussain was responsible for the murder of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) leader Zahra Shahid Hussain in Karachi on the eve of the re-polling in many of the polling stations in a constituency of Karachi. MQM boycotted the re-polling. The seat was won by PTI Secretary General Dr Arif Alvi.

The context of the purge is the unprecedented setback suffered by the MQM in the elections in Karachi, where the PTI not only won a seat, it emerged as the second largest party in terms of the popular vote in the city. It is thought that this reflects the migration of the youth vote to Imran Khan’s party, a loss the MQM could not have envisaged or been prepared for. The activities of criminal and corrupt elements within the MQM’s ranks may have dented its popular vote, and this worrying development lies at the heart of Altaf Hussain’s radical reorganisation of the leading bodies of the party. There has emerged a tentative debate within the MQM regarding the policy it has adopted for some years of trying to expand beyond an urban-based party of Sindh enjoying by and large the support of the province’s Urdu-speaking people towards an all-Pakistan political formation. That policy has not reaped the results expected, with the MQM’s forays into Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Gilgit Baltistan producing rather poor results. The argument is that in the effort to garner new support in these other provinces, the MQM has ended up losing the support of at least part of its traditional base in the cities of Sindh. So, back to the drawing board perhaps.

It remains to be seen whether the reorganisation wrought by Altaf Hussain produces the results he hopes for of rejuvenating the party, especially its dormant workers, eliminating the image that unfortunately clings to the party of the original author of bhatta (extortion) activities in Karachi, and the accusations and allegations against some of its cadres of morphing into a land mafia in the city. Clearly, the knocks the once unassailable MQM has received in this election at the hands of the PTI in Karachi are the basis of the purge. MQM will have to tread furiously in the water if the trend of losing votes, particularly of the youth, is to be reversed. *