Respect the Mandate of Karachi

ByAlam Brohi

A former Ambassador of Pakistan and was associated with Foreign Service of Pakistan


January 21, 2023

Respect the Mandate of Karachi

Ambassador Alam Brohi talks about a subject that needs attention

Some powers in the mysterious and unpredictable world of Pakistani politics become busy with political trickery when the dates of general elections draw closer. As is their wont, the chessboard is being laid and pawns are being readied to move at the command of the movers and shakers. The sardars and their sons and nephews from the hapless lands of Balochistan and south Punjab are being shoved into the ranks of one so-called mainstream political party, which was reduced to a regional political entity by the people in the general elections of 2013 and 2018. The footprint of these powers is also visible in the persistent efforts to bring together the remnants of the Mohajir Qaumi Movement to achieve “positive results” in respect the Mandate of Karachi.

The Metropolis has had enough of the blood, misery, and agony caused by ethnic politics and conflicts. Now that Karachi has shaken off the fear of target killings, arson, extortion, and shutdowns, ethnic politics are strangely being revived, washing, purifying and cloaking certain groups in a saint’s apron to be thrust on the megacity. The city has been the victim of the violent politics of MQM since its inception. It had an unending internecine war and bloody conflicts with almost all the other ethnic segments of the population living in Karachi and Hyderabad. We lost prodigal sons of the capital city including Hakeem Saeed, Salahuddin, Shahid Hamid, Azeem Tariq and scores of police officers in target killings.
We have not forgotten that the security forces of the country had to have clean-up operations in the city in the mid-1980s and 1990s and the last one quite recently. They unearthed torture cells and heaps of lethal weapons hidden in water tanks, graveyards, and old houses. Do we afford to return to this situation to eliminate the nuisance of a political entity falling foul of the powers that may be in the city?
The unraveling of the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) is no different from the demise of all king’s parties of the past, including the Republican Party of President Iskander Mirza, the Convention Muslim League of Ayub Khan, the Pakistan Muslim League (Junejo), the National People’s Party of Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi, formed at the behest of President Zia, and the PML-Q of President Parvez Musharraf. Because of irreconcilable political differences among the political leadership clustered in it as a result of coercion, the BAP had to be broken up.

Is this move in any way related to Reko Diq’s upcoming project? The PPP seems to be basking in its new-found romance with some powerful quarters. The party has won over all the political dynasties in Sindh and made them partners in its capture of provincial resources, and enjoyed the trust of powerful quarters. The condition of the poor populace has gone from bad to worse in the past decade and a half. Now Balochistan is destined to undergo malgovernance of this magnitude, giving a free hand to the powers that be to micromanage the precious resources of the Baloch land. The move is also aimed at cutting the BNP (Mengal) leadership to size in the forthcoming elections. Sardar Akhtar Jan will realise this very soon.

The three mainstream political parties, including the PTI, PPP, and Jamaat-e-Islami, are contesting for the mayor ships of Karachi and Hyderabad. The Jamaat seems to be ahead of its rivals in Karachi in terms of organisation, election campaign, and popularity of its candidate for mayoral office, Hafiz Naeem Ur Rehman. The PPP and PTI have not divulged the identities of their candidates. The PTI is concentrating on public mobilisation and depends on the overall popularity of its chairman. The PPP being in power and having placed the administrative paraphernalia of its trust in strategic positions would rely heavily on the administration’s crutches to win the most seats.

The MQM was banking on the federal and provincial governments to accede to its demands for re-delimitation of local government constituencies; changes in electoral rolls; the appointments of officers of its trust as administrators of Hyderabad, Karachi, and certain districts of the megacity as a result of the agreements signed with the PPP and PML (N) before switching over to the PDM. The PPP has accepted the majority of the demands of MQM except for delimitation and postponement of elections, which also involves the Election Commission of Pakistan and the Sindh High Court.

The MQM is not in a position to compete with Jamaat-e-Islami in these local government elections in the city. Hafiz Naeem, the city of the JI emir, is young, energetic, and popular. Over a year or so, he has been systematically running his election campaign, drawing substantial crowds. The city’s past mayors from Jamaat – Abdul Sattar Afghani and Advocate Naimatullah Khan – enjoyed credibility for public service, honesty, and commitment to the Metropolis, dwarfing, conversely, their successors from MQM including Farooq Sattar, Syed Mustafa Kamal, and Waseem Akhtar. Hence, the fear of electoral humiliation ahead of general elections compels MQM to look for excuses to have the second phase of local government elections derailed.

The PPP would not have been interested in holding these elections if its Karachi leaders had not improved its electoral chances in Pakhtun or non-Urdu speaking areas through sustained efforts, development work, and the pliable administration already in place. The PTI has a chance of putting up a good show given the popularity of Imran Khan. However, the party is poorly organized and looks complacent, which could be its Achilles’ heel.

Karachi is a vibrant city. It is already looking forward to having its new city rulers. We should avoid undermining its mandate by providing artificial crutches to the old ethnic-based MQM when it is already sliding into political limbo by a natural process. It has been abusing the mandate of the city since 1988. The city needs peace, improved law and order, efficient municipal services and an investment-friendly atmosphere. We should let the people of the city decide who or which political party they want to run their local governments. TW


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