Almost a year has passed since Mustafa Kamal and Anis Qaimkhani, two key leaders of the Mutahida Qaumi Movement, levelled serious allegation against party supremo Altaf Hussain on their return to Pakistan and later announced their own party — the Pakistan Sarzameen Party.
The PSP celebrated March 3 as “Youm-e-Tashakkur”, by arranging a ceremony to celebrate completion of the party’s first year. During a year, the PSP has managed to organise three major public gatherings — two in Karachi and one in Hyderabad. The party also succeeded in attracting a number of lawmakers and members who were initially given an identity by the MQM.
They include: Asif Hasnain, Raza Haroon, Dr Sagheer Ahmed, Waseem Aftab, Anees Advocate, Iftikhar Alam, Ishfaq Mangi and Bilquis Mukhtiar, while several others who switched sides were people who served as the party’s unit and sector in-charges. The newly formed political party also took wickets from other political parties, and Syed Hafeezuddin, an MPA of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Asiya Ishaq of the Pervez Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League are prominent among them.
Although the PSP leaders insist they did not form the PSP to usurp anyone’s power, political analysts believe the party’s main objective is to snatch the MQM’s control over its primary turf in Karachi, exploiting the pressure the MQM is facing because of the ongoing crackdown.
“The PSP was a much-needed initiative for the Mohajir cause,” says Aamir Talha, a 23-year-old MQM worker in Gulistan-e-Johar neighbourhood who joined PSP three weeks after Kamal launched the party last year in March. “As far as I am concerned, MQM was in a shambles, the workers were unhappy with the leadership but nobody had the courage to speak up.”
Talha says Kamal is a tried and tested leader who had delivered in the past as Karachi’s mayor. “He is a young and dynamic leader who understands Karachi’s issues like nobody else does. I hope more MQM activists will join PSP before the 2018 elections.”
Ammar Shahbazi, a journalist who covers the MQM politics, says that the PSP has extensively mobilised Mohajir youth from areas that the MQM calls its home ground in the last one year. “The MQM workers are joining the ranks of PSP and an alternative party for the Mohajirs is in the offing,” Shahbazi tells TNS.
A section of analysts is of the view that the developments after the August 22 diatribe of Altaf Hussain have made the PSP irrelevant after the MQM’s leadership in Pakistan announced to disassociate the party from Hussain, and decided that the party will now be run from Pakistan and not from London.
The PSP may have their reasons for the optimism but both factions of the MQM allege that the PSP was being backed by ‘certain quarters’ and has been established with the sole intention of splitting the united and integrated MQM’s mandate.
Even, on the ground, a number of MQM cadres, who were hiding because of their involvement in subversive activities, have been persuaded by the PSP leaders to move away from their militant past after giving them assurance of the government’s amnesty.
“It is needless to point out who is behind the creation of PSP,” says Murtaza Abbas, an MQM-P supporter, implying that the ‘security establishment’ is behind the MQM’s split. Abbas believes that the MQM will sail through the present crisis and persevere as he believes that such “tactics against the party have been used in the past as well”.
“Those who are familiar with Karachi’s political history know that the establishment has tried such designs against MQM in the past and are also aware of what happened to such spin offs,” he says.
But the PSP leaders reject the allegations. Kamal in a March 8 press conference claims the MQM’s 12 parliamentarians are ready to join the PSP but Farooq Sattar, the MQM-P’s (MQM-Pakistan) head, is threatening them with arrests by the establishment if they do so. “Sattar’s name is on the ECL but no one is arresting him. He is establishment’s guy,” he says.
However, analysts believe that one can gauge acceptability of the PSP among the Mohajir community during the upcoming general polls. “The PSP can at best act as a spoiler on MQM’s turf and not expect to win any seats,” Shahbazi says.
The PSP has not tried to take part in the by-polls in the city’s various constituencies — mainly fallen vacant because the MQM lawmakers resigned after joining the PSP — for anyone to know their acceptance and popularity among the Mohajir community. The united MQM, even reeling from the ongoing operation, won all of the constituencies fallen vacant after the MQM parliamentarians joined the PSP between the March and August. However, in September, the MQM-P tested defeat it its first electoral ballet post-Altaf Hussain reign after losing the PS-127 constituency of Malir to the PPP.
But, its votes have been shrinking, election results show.
Most importantly, thanks to the ongoing crackdown, the situation in the Mohajir-populated neighbourhoods is largely peaceful and entirely different from that witnessed in 1992 after the formation of the MQM-Haqiqi faction. Hundreds of activists and supporters were killed in violent clashes between the two factions and several areas of the city had become ‘no-go areas’ for activists for rival groups. In case of formation of the PSP and the MQM-P, the city did not witness any significant violent clash between the two groups. Analysts believe it is mainly because of weakening of the MQM.