The News on Sunday: The MQM Pakistan has announced it has disassociated itself from Altaf Hussain. Is it doing damage-control?
Farooq Sattar: It is more than damage-control or rescue exercise. You can call it curative treatment. We have identified a disease, which has been cured through radical surgery. It has become impossible for us to take advice and policies from London. Therefore, we have decided not to allow anyone to run the party from there. We amended the party’s constitution to remove Hussain’s name as party head and decision-making authority. There is now a complete disconnect with Altaf Hussain. We have no links with him. It should be clear to all.
TNS: If we see the structure of the MQM since its formation, we find that it has been directly controlled by Altaf Hussain. How does the MQM Pakistan see its acceptance among the mohajir community? Where the party draw its main support from?
FS: As far as personalities are concerned, the founder of any party or movement usually has its personality clout over its followers or workers. But the party or movement faces an issue when its founder is not available for three main situations — his demise, a situation in which he or she is physically unavailable or disconnected, or his or her organisation decides that it does not need his or her guidance.
We, the MQM Pakistan, faced the third situation where it was decided that the party will no longer take guidance from its founder and that the local leaders would run the party affairs and make party’s policies through a consultative and democratic process.
We started taking party cadres into confidence gradually and it was the reason that we have kept peace within the MQM intact. We took all these decisions for the interests of the party, [mohajir] community, vote bank, Karachi and Pakistan.
TNS: But despite all these endeavours, the crackdown on the MQM is still continuing. How do you see it?
FS: It will earn discredit for the law enforcement agencies. The main problem that was irritating — anti-Pakistan speeches from London and the style of running the MQM — were resolved by guaranteeing that the MQM will not take any dictation from London in local party affairs in future. Also at the same time, we will not take any dictation from the state agencies. We will be independent of any sort of dictation. Now the authorities should allow us to carry out our political activities.
Despite all these announcements and endeavours, law enforcement agencies have been demolishing and sealing our offices. Since August 22, more than 68 party offices have been razed while over 118 offices have been sealed. Our party headquarter, Nine Zero, has been sealed and now we have been operating from a temporary office. It is a series of indiscriminate raids and arrests of party leaders and workers. The arrested include members of party’s central executive committee. It is compelling us to presume that the agenda is beyond Altaf Hussain and his speeches. It shows that a united or one MQM is not acceptable.
TNS: Do you see the arrest of Waseem Akhtar, recently elected the mayor of Karachi, as part of the crackdown against the MQM?
FS: Yes. Why did the law enforcement agencies not arrest Akhtar when he was contesting the local government polls in December? Mayor polls were delayed for nine months and over 22 cases — all of which are fabricated — were registered against him. I think for development of the city, the Sindh government should announce his house to be a sub-jail, from where he can be facilitated to meet officials on a daily basis, run city affairs, and oversee the budgets and projects. His release on parole is the second option, in which he could not leave the city but meet the residents and see the civic problems himself. The MQM should be allowed to serve the people through local government institutions.
TNS: What future do you see for the party?
FS: As I said one thing clearly, those who chanted anti-Pakistan slogans are no more here. We have completely de-linked the party from them. But now the ruling elite should think about issues of those who have continuously been chanting ‘Long Live Pakistan’. They should ponder on why did the children of those who spearheaded the Pakistan movement chose to form a regional party 38 years ago? What were the causes of formation of All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation (APSMO), then the Mohajir Qaumi Movement, and then the Muttahida Qaumi Movement? The sense of insecurity and deprivation has deepened and aggravated and the mohajir identity has been growing. Who will offer remedies and resolve their issues? They know solution for their issues lies in a united, organised and integrated party — that is the MQM.