The remains of the day
After the recent orgy of violence and bloodshed that gripped Karachi, normality seemed to return to the long suffering city. Enter Senior Minister Sindh, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, who it seemed had decided to remind people why he had been silenced by his party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), in the first place.
On late Wednesday night at the residence of Awami National Party (ANP) Sindh’s president Shahi Syed, Mirza began to blast the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) leadership and the mohajir community. He then proceeded to appoint MQM-Haqiqi leader Afaq Ahmed as the true leader of the Urdu-speaking community in Pakistan. Given the recent events in Karachi, now was not the right time to make such statements.
The senior minister should have realised that playing the Sindh card while standing alongside Shahi Syed, who has his own record of playing the politics of ethnicity, would do nothing to improve the situation.
Predictably, the remarks did not go down well with the MQM and its supporters who took to the streets in mass protests. The MQM has not done itself any favors by reacting in the violent manner that it has. Fifteen people lost their lives and many more continue to suffer.
Although the PPP government has disassociated itself from Mirza’s statements, the damage has already been done. Fear and insecurity has once again returned to Karachi, two words which continue to plague the people of this city and subsequently the rest of Pakistan.
But the question one needs to ask is the real motive behind Mirza’s outburst. If he wanted to present himself as a champion of the Sindhi people and consequently give his own ego a massage, then he has achieved that to a degree. But if he somehow felt that his own political star would travel a great distance that has not happened. Zulfiqar Mirza should realise that politics that divides people along racial and religious lines is always toxic and should never be tampered with.
Having said that, the MQM itself does not get absolved from this troubling situation. If you dance with a chimney sweeper and hope that you come out of it clean, then you’re living in a fool’s paradise. The MQM itself has resorted to the ethnic card as well, but usually when it’s convenient to them. That ace up the sleeves is usually taken out when they feel that they are cornered politically and the only way for them to be heard is by playing the victim. This is not a wise strategy. If they wanted to raise their voice and protest at Zulfiqar Mirza’s comments, then it should be done in a peaceful manner.
The MQM should also decide once and for all whether it wants to stand for a principal, i.e. opposition to feudalism and the jagirdar system, or do they simply care about power politics, where they ultimately get into a coalition with the very people whom they condemn as representatives of all that is wrong in Pakistan’s political setup.
The PPP is also in a bind. The problem for it is that many people in the party agree with the stand that Zulfiqar Mirza has taken, although they are not as vocal about it. Many PPP workers and supporters were uncomfortable with getting into coalition with the MQM, but swallowed the bitter pill due to realpolitik.
But now that the coalition has come apart at the seams, PPP supporters feel that the MQM is acting like a party of spoiled brats who keep kicking and screaming when they don’t get their own way. Although reinstating the Commissionerate System was controversial for some people, and has been challenged by the MQM, the PPP has kowtowed several times to Muttahida’s demands. This includes the dismissal of Zulfiqar Mirza himself from the home ministry after he had previously locked horns with the MQM.
So what happens now? Most likely things will quite down again, as they have so many times before, only to reemerge in the form of burning vehicles and bloodshed on the streets of Karachi. The government doesn’t seem to have a long term strategy to deal with the situation. They seem to go from situation to situation and come up with a short term solutions as they go along. The government is simply determined to complete its tenure in office and is adamant that political strife in Karachi must not derail that objective.
It may very well complete its five-year term, but will Karachi and the people of Pakistan be able to endure anymore of this.