The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM)
The MQM started as a student group called the All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organization, founded on June 11, 1978 by Altaf Hussain at Karachi University. At first, the MQM only represented the Muhajir, Muslims who migrated from India, but, in order to gain more followers, it started welcoming all ethnic groups within Pakistan to join the party; however, it this was only partially successful.
In the October 1990 Election, the MQM became a national force, developing into the third strongest party in the country. It created an alliance with the Pakistan Muslim League to establish a provincial government in Sindh. Due to their relatively quick growth, the Pakistani Army and ISI became worried and started plotting against the MQM. By the mid-1990s, the ISI and Pakistani Army started clashing with MQM supporters. During this time, Karachi became one of the murder capitals of the world with thousands of people disappearing and murdered through a campaign of violence perpetuated by both sides.
Why Should Sindhis not Side with the MQM?
The MQM has allied itself with many violent elements throughout the province. It controls militants within the party that carry out extortion and intimidation tactics in order to stay in power, especially in Karachi. Mobs of MQM supporters attack anyone that the party leaders deem are a threat to their power. For example, recently, MQM supporters, instigated by the Party Chief Altaf Hussain, attacked the Karachi office of ARY News for not providing “due coverage” to them. MQM militants clashed with police and ransacked the ARY offices. They then set fire to police cars and destroyed nearby local shops.
Altaf Hussain, the Party Chief of the MQM, should be of particular concern to the Sindhi. Residing in London after self-exiling himself there in the 1990s, he still retains ultimate control over the party and its activities in Pakistan. He has recently been accused by popular Islamist politician Imran Khan of ordering the murder of Khan’s best-known party activist, Zahra Shahid Hussain, outside her home in Karachi, and he is now under investigation by the Metropolitan Police for money laundering. This investigation came after police raided his house in relation to the murder of a senior MQM official, Imran Farooq. Related, Hussain’s nephew was detained by UK police in connection to the murder. Additionally, at his 2009 birthday party, Hussain told guests that Pakistan’s rich landowners and businessmen “made big allegations against the MQM. If you [Pakistani elite] make those allegations to my face one more time you’ll be taking down your measurements and we’ll prepare your body bags.”
The primary objective of the Rangers is to safeguard the border with India, but is also a law enforcement force. It is responsible for maintaining internal security in Sindh and is a major law enforcement force. While it is not technically allowed to arrest individuals, the government has provided the Rangers with extended powers and they work in conjunction with the Sindh police. The Rangers are to prevent crime by taking preventive security measures and to disable and thwart organized crime. Additionally, the Rangers are given the right to apprehend people unlawfully entering into or going out of Pakistani territory. Lastly, during wartime, the Rangers are to support regular army units as a rear guard; they have been participants in many of the Indo-Pakistani wars of the past.
Why Should Sindhis not Side with the Rangers?
While the Rangers are supposed to provide security for all Pakistanis within Sindh and are supposed to “respect all;” they have become notorious for kidnapping dissidents and performing enforced disappearances. A famous example is the case of Raja Dahir Bhambro, the son of a notable Sindhi writer who was affiliated with the banned Sindhi nationalist party, Jeay Sindh Mutihida Muhaz. The Rangers brought a convoy to Bhambro’s village and raided the entire village. Eyewitnesses in the village described watching the Rangers beating and forcibly taking away Bhambro in a police vehicle, never to be seen again. His family lodged an appeal to the Sindh High Court requesting that he be produced in court; however, the Rangers used the court process to delay producing Bhambro alive in court. Sadly, Bhambro’s lifeless body was found in Nooriabad near a highway in the Jamshoro district; apparently, he was shot in the forehead, as if he was executed.
What Should the Sindhi Do?
So, what should the Sindhi do? Should they put their trust and security into the hands of the MQM or the Pakistan Rangers? To be honest, the Sindhi should not trust either of them and keep out of the current fight between the two entities. The MQM is a dangerous entity; they are becoming less and less of a true political party into more a demagogic force for Altaf Hussain who has become more delusional since his self-imposed exile in London; he is even under investigation for the murder of a dissident in London. Hussain has endangered freedom of the press by threatening any journalists or news source that is critical of him or the party. The MQM also indulges in illegal activities that are more akin to criminal gangs than an official political party. The Sindhis would do well with not associating themselves with the MQM.
Additionally, the Rangers are no better as they have also indulged with violent actions that have only hurt local Sindhis. They have kidnapped, tortured, and murdered dissident Sindhis (Bhambro) in the guise of “providing security” to the province. They are nothing but a violent arm of the Pakistani government in their attempt to control Sindh and ensure that the Sindhis are not able to govern themselves. Sindhis should just stay out of any fight between the Rangers and MQM and allow them to weaken each other. That way, Sindhis are able to become stronger and possibly gain more control of their own homeland. Only staying out of the current power struggle will the Sindhis gain more leverage in the future.