Arrival of Mustafa Kamal – Old wine in new bottle?

By Mansoor Ali Khan.

Pakistani Politics has always been full of surprises and unpredictability. They say, “there are no permanent enemies or friends in politics”, but when it comes to Pakistani politics there are no moralities and principles either. Zameer (Conscience) is perhaps another most exploited word in Pakistani politics. It implies to awake or sleep with reference to the needs of Pakistani Ruling Elite. All you need is to change your loyalty to serve the interest of ruling elite which is commonly referred as civil & military establishment, and you will become a Hero and all your past sins will be forgiven.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is unique political party from so many aspects. It was formed to serve the interest of “Mohajirs” or Urdu speaking community which had migrated from different parts of Utter Pardesh, Delhi, Agra and Bengal. Its chief Altaf Hussain belonged to a middle class educated family, who thought that Mohajirs had not being given equal rights in Sindh and they were being exploited. He joined student politics by forming the All Pakistan Muhajir Students Organization (APMSO) in 1978 while studying B-Pharmacy at Karachi University. His companions including Dr. Imran Farooq & Dr. Farooq Sattar were educated and most of them had studied medical science. It is largely believed that since its creation, MQM has had the support of Pakistani military establishment to counter Pakistan People’s Party influence in Urban Sindh. Altaf Hussain later stepped into mainstream politics by founding MQM in 1984, He was able to get a rapid and extra ordinary huge popularity in Karachi, and his party is now the fourth largest political party in the National Assembly of Pakistan. Hussain’s party has had political influence in Pakistan since the 1990s by being a part of several governing coalitions. The party’s political strongholds are the urban cities of Karachi and Hyderabad in Pakistan.

Since MQM was not welcomed by traditional Sindhi Nationalists and Religious parties. This rivalry lead MQM towards militancy and MQM started organizing itself at a massive scale. Altaf Hussain built an unbelievably strong hierarchy and no one within MQM could ever dare speak against party policy or Altaf Hussain. MQM workers were trained and they did not hesitate killing and torturing their opponents. It was a time of extreme chaos and fear in Karachi. It was the time that state somehow realized that their own creation had started haunting them. In the elections of October 1990, MQM emerged as the third strongest party in the country. This time, it made its alliance with Pakistan Muslim League (PML) to establish a provincial government in Sindh whereas PML formed the federal government.

Nawaz Sharif and Altaf Hussain

October 1990, MQM joined hands with PML to establish a provincial and federal governments. 

Pakistani establishment never tires of doing experiments. Instead of making a long term policy to counter the grievances of Urdu speaking community and dealing MQM with political maneuvering, Establishment followed old imperialist model of “Divide & Rule”. It was in early 80s when a fraction of MQM split under the leadership of Aafaq Ahmed and Aamir Khan to form MQM Haqiqi or MQM Real in 1992. But its consequences were not according to the plan. This move did not make MQM weak, instead it resulted into further fear and chaos, and a fierce and unstoppable ‘Political Gang War’ started in Karachi between MQM and MQM Haqiqi.

It was by that time state realized its another mistake, and first military operation in Karachi was started in June 1992. MQM leaders and workers were arrested and kept in Jail. Hussain escaped Karachi one month before the operation began, following an attack on his life on 21 December 1991. Altaf Hussain fled to London and applied for political asylum.

During Operation Clean-up, MQM was accused of being anti-Pakistan and of planning a separatist break-away state ‘Jinnahpur’. However, later some senior army officers, Brigadier (R) Imtiaz and General (R) Naseer Akhtar, confessed that Jinnahpur was “nothing but a drama” against MQM for the military operation and there was no map of Jinnahpur. In Pakistan on October 19, 1992 newspapers carried an ISPR press release, conveying Army’s denial of the knowledge of the Jinnahpur plan.

Ending in 1994, the period is regarded as the bloodiest period in Karachi’s history, with thousands killed or gone missing in the fighting. In May 1995, armed clashes again broke out between the MQM and the Sindh Police managed by the PPP. Benazir Bhutto’s steps towards the counter insurgency did, however, brought some calm in Karachi by the spring of 1996. Over this issue, Murtaza Bhutto was notably gunned down in a police encounter with the Sindh Police. Within seven week, President Farooq Leghari dismissed the government of Benazir Bhutto, primarily charging the issue of Murtaza Bhutto and the killings of MQM workers. MQM participated well in 1997 general elections and re demonstrated its political leverage in the parliament. Furthermore, the program came to its final halt in end years of 1996 after the dismissal of Benazir Bhutto’s government.

October 12, 1999 brought good news for MQM. Then Army Chief General Pervez Musharraf took over and dismissed the government of Nawaz Sharif. MQM supported General Pervez Musharraf throughout the tenure. In response, Gen Musharraf provided complete state protection to MQM and kept his eyes closed from MQM’s armed wings, reportedly had connections with RAW.  In 2005, Country wide local body elections were held countrywide and MQM had swept the polls in Karachi. It was the time when an educated ‘telephone operator’ Syed Mustafa Kamal emerged on the scene as City Nazim (Mayor) Karachi who later went on to get the title of ‘World’s Second Best Mayor’ by US Foreign Policy Magazine.


In 2005, Syed Mustafa Kamal emerged on the scene as City Nazim (Mayor) Karachi.

Mustafa Kamal with his good speaking and management skills, was able to change the dynamics of Karachi Politics. He worked hard and started mega projects in Karachi. A network of roads, fly overs and public transport was built in Karachi. He introduced City Ambulance, Rescue services and Green Bus service in Karachi. More than 100 infrastructure and 450 educational projects were completed in 5 years of his mayor ship. He became a ‘soft image’ of MQM and many believed that he had become even more popular than the party chief Altaf Hussain. Altaf Hussain used Mustafa Kamal to show that only MQM could change the fate of Pakistan.

September 16, 2010 was the start of testing times for Altaf Hussain & MQM. Imran Farooq was found murdered near his home in North London.

The Metropolitan Police said they were called on the complaint of a “serious assault” in Green Lane, Edgware, where they found Farooq, who had suffered multiple stab wounds and head injuries. Despite the efforts of paramedics, Farooq was pronounced dead. London Metropolitan police and Scotland Yard initiated investigations and raided Altaf Hussain’s home in London to recovered 400,000 Pounds. Altaf Hussain has been alleged of Money laundering and 3 arrested suspects Moazzam Shah, Khalid Shamim and Kashif Khan had confessed that they murdered Imran Farooq on the orders of party’s high command. Whereas, a BBC report published last year which alleged MQM on being funded by RAW and confessional statements of Altaf Hussain’s longtime friend Sarfraz Merchant were huge setbacks.

At a time when Altaf Hussain is under immense pressure and he is also having severe health problems, what does sudden arrival of Mustafa Kamal and Anis Qaimkhani show? Kamal who in August 2013, quietly left the country, moving first to Tanzania and then settling in Dubai, informing party leaders through emails that he had left because of his wife’s illness and personal problem has emerged as a strong Anti-Altaf politician from within MQM. He suddenly became a Hero when he alleged his ‘Ex-leader’ of being a RAW agent and bloodthirsty politician who was ruling Karachi for his personal benefits. It is the same Altaf Hussain whom he used to defend passionately.


3rd March, 2016 Mustafa Kamal announced his new political party in Karachi.

Will Mustafa Kamal succeed..?

Mustafa Kamal, despite of being a diehard MQM worker in past has never been named in any criminal activity, militancy or corruption. His crime free record and popular image may help him in his mission. He has been able to create panic within MQM, but will he be able to create a severe dent on MQM’s vote Bank? It will depend on how many important or ‘known’ faces from MQM ranks join his ranks.

Anees Qaimkhani, who has also been in charge of MQM’s Sectors based organizational structure, understand MQM’s structure and working better than anyone else. However, his name has been included in Baldya Town Factory fire, Dr Asim Hussain and Dr Imran Farooq murder case. It seems as if Mustafa Kamal will remain on front and play as poster face of his party, while Anis Qaimkhani has been given a task to grab MQM’s strongholds and key members.

Whatever the outcome might be, Pakistan cannot afford more controversies and more conspiracies. There are serious allegations on MQM and Altaf Hussain, and arrival of Mustafa Kamal will provide a tough competition. It is the time that allegations of foreign funding and involvement of Indian intelligence agencies in country’s economic hub must be taken seriously. It is the time to make people realize that politics is a positive activity and it is the time to  bring Karachi’s lights back.

Writer is a current affairs Producer with a news channel based in Islamabad.

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