The Abrupt Fall of Altaf’s Empire

A sealed office of MQM in Karachi. (Photo via video stream)
A sealed office of MQM in Karachi. (Photo via video stream)

Altaf Hussain has an unenviable record of stirring up violence by remote control from London.  More than any other leader in our checkered  history, he is adept at playing the politics of dead bodies, whether of his follower and innocents is immaterial to him.  The speed of the mob’s reaction on August 22 in such a congested area as the Zainab Market suggested that this was neither spur-of-the-moment nor spontaneous, there was method in his madness spouting venomous hatred for Pakistan and the Pakistan Army.

Armed men hidden inside the premises of two nearby banks by bank officers belonged to MQM’s Labour Division.  The Rangers Chief Maj Gen Bilal Akbar confirmed six key MQM activists arrested by the Sindh Rangers gave valuable information about who gave the directions, supplied the weapons, etc. A well-planned, well-scripted RAW attempt to defame the Pakistan Army and turn the increasing world attention away from Indian atrocities in Kashmir failed because a huge traffic jam delayed the arrival of the Rangers, the Panama Papers, mega corruption cases etc, would have all paled in comparison to the planned carnage. Coincidently Pervez Rashid had just met local MQM leaders in the Punjab House in Karachi, the TV stations targeted were not anti-MQM but were anti-government The Federal government inadvertently became accessories to an Indian “false-flag” attempt to create a public relations disaster for Pakistan.

For once the military did not vacillate by debating a decision to death. Before the political governments in Sindh and Islamabad could catch their breaths the fait accompli included MQM unit offices ‘built on encroached lands’ razed to the ground “on orders of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah”. Subsequently this was endorsed for all parties at a Provincial Apex Committee Meeting.  According to Shaheen Sehbai, “The swift and ruthless, almost military sweep against the MQM offices and establishments in Karachi, including the personal home of Altaf Hussain, No. 90 in Azizabad, shows the intensity of anger and severity of the military establishment against politicians who cross the red line”.  The message was unambiguous, when action was required it would be instant, brutal, effective and without consideration of any political consequences. The blunt no-nonsense approach of soft-spoken Comd 5 Corps Lt Gen Naveed Mukhtar (his father Brig Mukhtar should be proud of him) is symbolic of the present military hierarchy following Clausewitz first Principle of War, “the selection and maintenance of aim”. Speak softly but carry a big stick!

Altaf Hussain’s formidable political machine could at one time bring the vast metropolitan port city of Karachi to a halt at one call.   Ms Benazir’s Maj Gen NK Babar-led operations virtually emasculated the MQM militant wing in 1995-1996, Gen Musharraf’s political ambitions post-2002 allowed MQM to regain its militant power post-2002 and subsequently the NRO allowed PPP and PML(N) to return to their blatantly corrupt ways. Institutionalizing corruption, his NRO damaged the future of Pakistan almost beyond repair.  With the MQM, the PPP and the ANP all having their own militants’ wings in Karachi, widespread criminality and corruption under political patronage became the order of the day. The people of Karachi lived under the shadow of the gun. Beginning 2012 then DG Rangers Maj Gen (later Lt Gen) Ejaz Chaudhry courageously initiated countering of political motivated criminal activity in Karachi, primarily targeting MQM’s militant wing.   This continued when he became Comd 5 Corps and Maj Gen (later Lt Gen) Rizwan Akhtar replaced him as DG Rangers.  Gathering momentum post 2013, Constitutional cover given in January 2015 allowed the Rangers under Maj Gen Bilal Akbar into overdrive.

Shaheen Sehbai says, “Farooq Sattar was left with no choices to survive, either by dumping his leader, to disband his party or get officially banned by the government under pressure from Pindi. If Farooq Sattar collapses and resigns, or disbands his legally registered MQM under pressure, at least 25 National Assembly seats, almost 60 Sindh PA and scores of local government seats including three elected mayors, will become empty, forcing the electoral process to order fresh elections.”  Farooq Sattar “taking over” the party in Pakistan is meant to avoid MQM being banned. Reared on slogans like “Jo Quaid ka ghaddar hai, woh mot ka haqdar hai” (whoever is a traitor to the Quaid (Altaf), he is deserving of death)” some diehard activists would still remain under Altaf Hussain’s spell.  MQM must stay in the democratic mainstream but without blatantly anti-Pakistan Altaf Hussain. Since India loves him, they can have him!

Appointing GHQ’s nominee as the Federal Defense Secretary (which Nawaz Sharif had refused previously) diffused tensions with Pindi somewhat. Not learning any lessons, the PML (N) continue baiting the khakis out of inherent animosity and malice. Two retired Lt Cols and a Major of two private security companies were recently arrested and humiliated by the Punjab Police in Rawalpindi because the financial institution their security companies were  guarding were robbed.  On this convoluted logic if any heinous crime takes place then would the senior officers in the police hierarchy in the area be arrested? Shahbaz Sharif recently overdid himself extolling how the Turkish public had thwarted the military coup against Erdogan. Turkish police were seen taking handcuffed senior military officers to court, any doubt that the likes of Rana Sanaullah were not indirectly warning to the military “against attempting a coup” by publicly degrading retired military officers?

Bilawal Bhutto called the return of PTI’s petition to the Supreme Court (SC) seeking disqualification of PM Nawaz Sharif on “frivolous grounds” as a “blow to the legitimacy of the judiciary”.  Incidentally Bilawal’s father was the only person holding public office in Pakistan who did not declare his all-gotten assets because of a glaring omission in the written requirements for the President to do so.  Zardari symbolized the institutionalizing of corruption in the country. What constitutes the morality of justice delivered, the spirit or the wording of the law?

The important legal lesson derived from US Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes concept of “clear and present danger” is that when anything impacts national security adversely, you can’t afford to debate and vacillate, you have to act, and swiftly. Shaheen Sehbai’s says, “Altaf’s outburst has landed the entire political set up into a frying pan. Pindi’s message is clear, if action became inevitable, it would be taken in the same manner against people and politicians, sweeping, ruthless and without any fear of consequences,” unquote. One hopes the military hierarchy will stay firm on its mission statement, any loss of momentum will be disastrous for the country!

(The writer is a defense and security analyst).

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