Army's efforts to break-up MQM the fourth largest political party of Pakistan
A brutal anti-Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) military operation continues behind the smoke screen as electronic and print media has been barred from reporting the extra-judicial killings by the paramilitary forces in Karachi and elsewhere in the volatile Sindh province.
Tellingly on Wednesday (11/9), the Chief of Army Staff, General Raheel Sharif, presided over a "security meeting" of military officials to discuss the security situation in Karachi and elsewhere in the Sindh province. However, the popularly elected Chief Minister of Sindh, Murad Ali Shah, was not allowed to attend the crucial meeting because Karachi is firmly in the control of army. However, the "security meeting" was attended by the corps commander, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Director General Military Intelligence, Director General Military Operations and Director General Rangers.
According to Karachi's leading newspaper Dawn, the military establishment has taken direct ownership of Karachi operation as the General Raheel has repeatedly termed lasting peace in the country's business capital the "ultimate aim" of the anti-MQM operation. "Peace (in Karachi) is crucial because of its direct link with the country's economic progress," he had said earlier this year.
Since August this year, a brutal military operation is underway against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which has political dominance in the southern Sindh province's urban areas - notably in Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur where a large number of Urdu-speaking people reside. The drastic anti-MQM army move came after a controversial speech by the MQM leader Altaf Hussain that led to widespread arrests of MQM workers and leaders.
Not surprisingly, the army seized the opportunity to break-up the MQM which is the fourth largest party in Pakistan. The MQM is currently the second largest party in Sindh and overall the fourth-largest party in the National Assembly of Pakistan after the Pakistan Muslim League (N), Pakistan Peoples Party, and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf. The MQM has representation in Pakistan's Senate, the National Assembly and also in the Sindh provincial assembly.
The Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army General Raheel Sharif personally ordered sealing of more than 200 MQM offices in Karachi and elsewhere. Some offices were bulldozed. At the same time the Army is encouraging prominent MQM leaders to form a rival MQM which is named as MQM-Pakistan while the parent organization is called Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
This is not the first time that all powerful army has tried to break-up the MQM which has a solid vote-bank in Karachi and other southern Sindh towns with Urdu speaking majority.
The Reuters news agency reported in April 2015, the chief of Pakistan's main spy agency is spearheading a campaign to wrest control of the teeming port city of Karachi from a powerful political party. The title of the Reuters story written by Mehreen Zahra-Malik was: "Pakistan military's move on Karachi seen part of 'creeping coup'"
A government official close to Rizwan Akhtar, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, was quoted as saying: "There is a quiet, creeping takeover of Karachi by the military." "Karachi is just too big ... too much land, too much business, resources. No one party will be allowed to rule Karachi from now on," the un-named official was quoted as saying.
Weakening the MQM's grip, and particularly that of exiled leader Altaf Hussain, would free space for other political parties seen as more sympathetic to the military, like Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, led by former cricketer Imran Khan, the Reuter report said adding: "It would also give the army leverage over Pakistan's economic hub. That complements other steps taken in the last two years to tighten its grip on national security, foreign policy and the judiciary through the introduction of military courts."
Tellingly, the former Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army, General Asif Nawaz Janjua, once said if there could be two or three groups in other political parties, why can't there be two or more groups in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)? General Janjua was chief of army staff August 1991 to 1993. It was under his watch that the first anti-MQM operation was launched in 1992.
From 1992 to 1994, the MQM was the target of the Pakistan Army's Operation Clean-up, The period is regarded as the bloodiest period in Karachi's history, with thousands MQM workers and supporters killed or gone missing. Although 14 years have passed since the alleged arrest or disappearance of MQM workers, families of the missing people are still hopeful after registering the cases in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The operation left thousands of Urdu-speaking civilians dead. [Wikipedia]