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SINDH DIARY Part 4: Karachi changes hands for good
Political parties battling it out to control the economic hub of Pakistan
Saeed Minhas (sam67)   
By Saeed Minhas

KARACHI: Once a citadel of the PPP and the JI, Karachi셲 crust seems to have changed its hands for good. The belly of the city remains predominantly occupied by the MQM셲 supporters, but its entry and exit points are either inhabited or fully controlled by the Pashtuns and their tribal chieftains.

Besides having a sizeable presence of the Sindhi population and their leadership in various pockets of the city, Karachi has seen an influx of Baloch nationalists, supra-nationalists and even separatists, who for some odd reasons, have chosen Karachi as their sanctuary.

The city셲 transport and heavy equipment remains under the command of the Pashtuns, while the Punjabis, Sindhis and Baloch, are involved in manual work. The service industry remains mainly under the control of the Urdu-speaking middleclass. A mixture of Memons and Gujaratis continues to hold the businesses, manufacturing, import/export and even the construction industry. This complexity of ethnicities, convergence of financial fortunes and its strategic location have made Karachi a bone of contention between political, religious, ethnic and nationalist forces. Target killings, kidnappings for ransom, extortion and land mafias have become a part of the city셲 political and social culture, and whosoever rules the city politically, is bound to get its share from these sources.

Exchanging these notes with my hosts and mesmerised by the organisational structure of the MQM after knowing how a telephone operator at the party MPAs hostel, Mustafa Kamal, managed to earn the limelight, my query was that why have they not been able to control target killings or crime in the city. The textbook response was, 쏻e are just a part of the coalition, not the government. But some of them remarked with exasperation, 쏷he Taliban셲 presence is making it worse. Despite several warnings from Bhai, both federal and provincial governments are not ready to rein them in, resulting in a fresh wave of killings in the city. Here also, the MQM is losing more workers than any other party, but we are still blamed.

My hosts were briefing me so zealously that by the time I bade adieu, I was impressed by how they had expelled more than 2,000 party workers on disciplinary grounds; MNAs like Khushbakht Shujaat, Babar Ghauri and Khanzada had been made to appear before the Rabita Committee for allegedly misreporting assets; none of the seven siblings of Altaf Hussain is part of the Rabita Committee; a unit in-charge is more powerful than a provincial minister; Bhai should not return home because he will be killed by hidden elements; and the media doesn셳 fear the party, rather respects it in Karachi.

When efforts were made to determine whether Mustafa Kamal is being monitored for alleged misreporting of his foreign ventures worth Rs 8 billion, or if there is an inquiry going on under the chairmanship of Governor Ishratul Ebad, the response was that no such thing exists and it셲 just a figment of imagination spread by certain anti-MQM media outlets.

Soon, I was standing on the first floor of the party셲 media centre ? a fully digitised monitoring room where 32 national, regional and international channels were being monitored 24/7. News, views or even tickers can셳 escape the watchful eyes of the MQM hawks, the escorts claimed. With a three-month back-up recording facility, the media house has the capacity to send 10,000 text messages and 50,000 emails in a flash. The entire set-up was put in place by a party worker, currently working with NATO in Afghanistan, claimed the head of the media team.

The media operation is managed so accurately from a 70 sq ft room that it can put any media house in Pakistan to shame. The agile staff, apparently all volunteers, continues to feed facts to all MQM leaders appearing on TV shows during breaks, even during live shows. They also have a central monitoring room for the print media, where a daily summary of national and international issues is generated for all party members. No wonder that if you ask the same question to even a hundred MQM leaders, the answer would be the same, contrary to the practice in other parties.

Being a port city and claimant to 60 percent of the country셲 revenues, Karachi has always had its share of lawlessness, even before the creation of the MQM in the late 1970s. In fact, many of the city셲 seasoned dwellers express openly that the All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organisation was launched by Altaf Hussain to counter the politically backed land mafia and criminals. 쁀 tooth for a tooth approach has now made the MQM acceptable to even the city셲 posh areas and they believe that it셲 better to live under one party than a multitude of stakeholders.

쏻hether you call us terrorists or fascists, it doesn셳 matter because the facts speak for themselves. We have braved the worst kind of state violence throughout the 90s. Yet, our vote bank has grown, with official figures revealing that the MQM bagged more than nine percent of the total national votes cast throughout the country during the 2008 elections, claimed a party leader.

쏻e have endured violence and torture just to raise our voices against injustices. Now, look at our performance in the last eight years, we have made Karachi peaceful and stable. The epidemic of qabza groups, target killings and ransom is gone, though sporadic killings remain and we are looking to sort this out as well, claimed several party leaders and Rabita Committee members. *

Its last and fourth part of the series of articles on Urban Sndh and in particular about political and ethnic ideology of one of the most controversial political party of the country ie MQM

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