By Minerwa Tahir
KARACHI: An interesting flowchart was floated on social media barely half an hour after reports of the speculated PIB-Bahadurabad split surfaced. It shows the four instances when MQM was split: first into Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Mahajir Qaumi Movement, then MQM and PSP, followed by MQM splitting into London and Pakistan factions, and the final division into Bahadurabad and PIB factions.
On face value, this may seem like the chaotic disintegration of Karachi’s largest political party. More factions with more detailed names. However, the political landscape of Karachi has never been as black and white as most would like to believe. In Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City, Laurent Gayer mentioned a system of “ordered disorder” that prevails in Pakistan’s economic hub. This form of disorder, characterized by distinct features not found in any other part of the country, has prevailed in Karachi over time and is likely to continue given the unique dynamics of the multi-lingual city. Moreover, since Karachi’s ordered disorder is based on human interdependence, those who appear to be rivals are often working in collaboration. For example, it was the late chief minister, Jam Sadiq Ali, who had tipped the party founder about an oncoming army operation in the early 1990s and advised him to leave Pakistan. The MQM founder acted on his advice, never to return to the country.
If there is one quality that those associated with MQM, be they Farooq Sattar, Amir Khan and Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui or the lower tier saathi, excel at, it is creating intended perceptions. Right now, TV channels are flashing headlines and hyped up anchorpersons are going on and on about speculations of the possible MQM-Pakistan split. For all we know, it could be true. Given the party’s current record, however, there is yet another speculation that will not be discussed on TV: what if this is yet another manoeuvre of the seasoned Sattar? In November last year, he managed to expose PSP and the establishment all at the same time. In Karachi, PSP has always remained irrelevant to the voter despite all the alleged backing it enjoyed. The real challenge that Sattar undertook was something else and victorious did he emerge.
This technique of creating intended perceptions that Sattar employs is his strategy to plan ahead. It is the ground level engagement of a party leader that appeals to the Karachi voter. As rival parties remark on the supposed disintegration of MQM and the electronic media wastes air time on how party workers are not following Sattar’s orders, the party convener gets time and space for his manoeuvring and base level involvement. The fact remains that we will not find Bilawal campaigning on ground for a by-election in Karachi. But Sattar and other MQM leaders will always be there.
Now that the MQM has carefully chosen its battles and managed to steer attention in the direction of non-issues such as Tessori and “Memon card”, it is consciously working towards preparing for the upcoming general elections. Moreover, the state seems to have given them the green light as well. After all, Karachi cannot be sustained for long without its disordered order. Most likely, Tessori will not get the ticket for the Senate and Sattar is very much on board with the Rabita Committee’s decision.
No matter how many splits are engineered in the party, chances are that MQM-Pakistan is all set to emerge victorious – first, in uniting most if not all factions of MQM and then on the Karachi-based seats in the upcoming election.
Story first published: 6th February 2018