Friday, July 1, 2011

Pakistan Demographic Trends Worry MQM

Why did the Muttahida Qaumi Movement(MQM) react so strongly to the PPP's aggressive stance in the recent Azad Kashmir elections that it decided to pull out of the ruling coalition? Why has the MQM leadership replaced "Mohajir" with "Muttahida" in its name? Why is the MQM so eager to expand its base from the exclusively Urdu-speaking urban Sindh to other provinces and regions?

To answer these questions, let's look at the changing demographics in the energy-rich Sindh province. A combination of rapidly declining birth rates of mohajirs and the rising tide of migration of northern pathans into urban Sindh is causing increasing concern among the leaders of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement(MQM) about their party's future as an ethnic and regional political force. This concern has been further reinforced by the influx of new Pathan and Sindhi migrants into Karachi after the massive 2010 floods.

Pakistan's National Census data from 1981 and 1998 showed that the proportion of Urdu-speaking Muhajir population in Sindh declined from 24.1% to 21%. During the same period, the Sindhi-speaking population of Sindh rose from 55.7% to 59%, with the rest made up of Pathans and Punjabis. Given their higher level of education and consequently lower birth rates, it is expected that the 2011 national census now underway will show the proportion of Urdu-speakers in Sindh will go down still further to below 20%.

In his recently published book "Pakistan-A Hard Country", Professor Anatol Lieven of London's King's College has described Mohajirs as passionately believing in "Muslim nationalism on which Pakistan had been founded, and for the sake of which they had sacrificed so much."

I think we should all, including MQM, take serious notice of the above description of the native Urdu-speakers (aka Muhajirs) in Pakistan.

If MQM is really serious about appealing across ethnic lines to become a truly national force, it needs to start by genuinely reaching out to all ethnic groups in Karachi, a cosmopolitan urban center which represents a true microcosm of all of Pakistan.

I also think that MQM's genuine pursuit for the mantle of a national party should, therefore, be seen as a positive rather than a negative. It should be supported by all those who believe in a united and harmonious Pakistan which helps every Pakistani, regardless of ethnicity, achieve his or her dream of peace and prosperity as one people striving to make Quaid-e-Azam M.A. Jinnah's Pakistan a reality.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Needs More Gujaratis?

Karachi Tops World's Largest Cities

An Indian's View of Iqbal, Jinnah and Pakistan

Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performace

Eleven Days in Karachi

Citymayors website

Pakistan Most Urbanized in South Asia

Energy-rich Sindh Province

Karachi: The Urban Frontier

Do Asia's Urban Slums Offer Hope?

Orangi is Not Dharavi

Climate Change Could Flood Karachi Coastline

Karachi Fourth Cheapest For Expats

Karachi City Government

Karachi Dreams Big

Pakistan Census 2011

Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan

High Cost of Failure to Aid Flood Victims

World Memon Organization

Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia


Moid said...

I wonder if there is any party which can appeal to both Mohajirs and Sindhis/Pathans. Muslim nationalism has died a long time ago....its not enough to bind different people together, without a common foreign enemy and a strong lurking survival danger for every one. MQM's repeated failures in Panjab and Balochistan is one strong evidence

Anonymous said...

wow what a concept Mohajir!
There is no such concept for Hindus and Sikhs with roots in what is today Pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "There is no such concept for Hindus and Sikhs with roots in what is today Pakistan."

Mohajir in Pakistan is defined based on his or her Urdu ethnicity rather than roots in what is now India.

For example, Nawaz Sharif's Punjabi-speaking parents migrated from East Punjab but the Sharifs are not considered Mohajir. In fact Sharifs lead one of the two largest political parties in Pakistan.

As to India, multiplicity of ethnic and regional parties and ethnic conflicts are quite common in India too.

Moid said...

And off course, a reason is MQM's past with dead bodies in grainy bags , that were then taken to Panjab and Peshawer for burial...but it has mostly something to do with divergent interests of Mohajirs and Sindhi/Pathan immigrants

Shams said...

MQM is a minority ethnic party. If ever it gets any Punjabis or Pathans in it, it will lose to the larger P/P population just like the PPP did. PPP is now governed by the Punjabis and Pathans, even while Zardari appears to be the main honcho. As you will notice, nearly 90% of all new development funds are going towards Punjab's developments, HEC's new development budget is going to Punjab's universities, and SIndh has zero armament plants, zero motorways, zero new nuke plants, zero new universities, zero new government investments, i.e. zero everything, and its own constitutionally protected natural gas has been mostly diverted to the Punjab.

MQM was formed to protect and take back the interests of the Urdu speakers. If MQM is infiltrated by Punjabis and Pathans due to their larger yet illiterate, the MQM's main purpose will be withered away. The people who had originally stolen Urdu-speakers' right are not likely to give it back.

You claim that MQM's move to have P/P in its fold will create harmony. But, but, but, Harmony doesn't mean you let others walk over your ass. In the end, you should be found standing and not lying down with your ass massively trampled over.

Anonymous said...

Would you agree that in Pakistan, politics is about getting your slice of the pie and not so much about ideas that enable Pakistanis to make their own pie, so to speak?

Because I think you have pointed to something we should, and I think even indians will agree on the nature of politics, that it is at it's core a sort of biradari, we take care of only our own and our own is defined in a constrictive manner as opposed to expansive. For instance the MQM and really any Pakistani political party, live through "patronage" and it's reflection of a criminal enterprise, is not an unjustified reflection.

On the issue of Pashtuns in Karachi, lets be fair, just as the so called Mohajir, once streamed into karachi and enriched it with their own unique heritages, so will other ethnic groups - the challenge remains moving away from "my slice of the pie" mentality to one in which opportunity and equality of opportunity, is not restricted

Riaz Haq said...

Anon: "Would you agree that in Pakistan, politics is about getting your slice of the pie and not so much about ideas that enable Pakistanis to make their own pie, so to speak?

Because I think you have pointed to something we should, and I think even indians will agree on the nature of politics, that it is at it's core a sort of biradari, we take care of only our own and our own is defined in a constrictive manner as opposed to expansive. For instance the MQM and really any Pakistani political party, live through "patronage" and it's reflection of a criminal enterprise, is not an unjustified reflection."

In his book "Pakistan-A Hard Country", Prof Lieven discusses the subject of kinship and political patronage in detail and concludes that it is Pakistan's biggest strength for its stability but also its biggest weakness in terms of making progress toward a modern nation-state based on rule of law. The professor also believes that Mohajirs are the least likely to indulge in political patronage based on the old kinship or biradri system that pervades Punjab, Sindh and other provinces and regions.

Anon: "On the issue of Pashtuns in Karachi, lets be fair, just as the so called Mohajir, once streamed into karachi and enriched it with their own unique heritages, so will other ethnic groups - the challenge remains moving away from "my slice of the pie" mentality to one in which opportunity and equality of opportunity, is not restricted"

I think Pakistanis can learn a thing or two on how the Chinese are managing rural-to-urban migration in a planned and orderly manner to the benefit of both rural and urban populations.

Anonymous said...

On a broader level, Karachi, which is an administrative nightmare anyway, represents everything that goes wrong when the writ of the state withers and gets diluted. As the Taliban insurgency rages on in the northwestern parts of the country, the Pashtun population has, over the years, trickled into Karachi in search of safety and livelihoods. Their numbers have increased and will continue to do so in the near future. With this, it is only but natural that their appetite for political and other benefits would increase multifold.

The MQM has foreseen this shift and is already dreading the consequences. The Muhajir demographics have changed in the last decade, and they are no more in a majority. But the MQM wants to ensure its iron hold over the city and the revenue it generates. It does not want any redistribution or restructuring of municipality demarcations.

The MQM makes the right political noises but the tough tactics and bare-knuckle politics of the party pose a challenge to any government in Islamabad. The ruling PPP government faces the same dilemma.

Furthermore, the MQM has flexed its muscles in the past and continues to do so till now. The ANP, for its part, isn’t afraid of this either, in Karachi. ‘Target killings’ are the ugliest manifestation of the political tussle that is going on between the MQM, the ANP and the PPP. There is no ‘hidden hand’ or ‘third force’ that is trying to destabilise the city. The culprits are amongst those who claim innocence and ignorance.

But there are no easy or quick fixes either.

For now, there is perhaps a need for a new set of power brokers and political firefighters. The interior minister’s patch-ups are temporary and get upended no sooner than they are stitched. Someone else from the PPP needs to be in charge to act as a mediator and negotiator. All political parties will have to sit together and figure out a way to deweaponise the city, devise a system of proportional representation and share the responsibility of maintaining peace. Turmoil in Karachi serves no interest of the country. But threats of sowing instability and perpetuating the spree of coldblooded killings — if demands are not met — is sheer blackmail and nothing else. This has to end.

The MQM has to accept the changing ground realities. Karachi is too big a cake for any political party to eat alone. New migrants will have to be integrated into the city. Forcing them onto the fringes or thwarting their influx won’t work. On the other hand, both the ANP and the PPP need to stop patronising and protecting criminals who are masquerading as political workers and operating in the slums and outskirts of the city. The calls for a military operation, even if limited in scope, are, however, a recipe for further disaster. Bringing in paramilitary and army troops won’t address the root causes of the malaise that is crippling the city.

Mayraj said...

I met Mustafa Kamal in NYC. I was very impressed with him. I think MQM is best suited to be an urban party and they need to develop more leaders like Mustafa Kamal. He can guide other urban leaders.
I think they should first try to be an urban party. They have the making of what Lula's party PT did in Brazil. It became a national party through its success in urban centers where it became known for some innovative programs like participatory budgeting-which was later copied in Latin America and then by other countries-even developed countries.

Anonymous said...

Is it correct to blame MQM for all problems. The way Sindhis un-welcomed Mohajir just after partition without any regards to their sufferings. First they made Sindhi the sole official language of Sindh to curb highly educated Mohajir. Next Bhutto's rural-urban reservation especially to target Muhajirs. 3 Million Biharis are stranded in Bangladesh since 40 years, branded with insulting life as a traitor with no citizenship and still hoping to come to Pakistan and everyone in Pakistan is more considered about their ethnic based demography.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some excerpts from a Reuters report on ethnic violence in Karachi:


Karachi, home to more than 18 million people, has a long history of ethnic, religious and sectarian violence.

It was a main target of al Qaeda-linked militants after the September 11 2001 attacks on the United States, when Pakistan joined the U.S.-led campaign against militancy, and foreigners were attacked in the city several times.

A recent report from the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said 1,138 people were killed in Karachi in the first six months of 2011, of whom 490 were victims of political, ethnic and sectarian violence.

The latest surge in violence in the southern city came days after the MQM announced it was quitting the ruling coalition.

The MQM, which mostly represents the Mohajirs -- descendents of Urdu-speakers who migrated from India after the creation of Pakistan in 1947 -- and its rival, the ethnic Pashtun-based Awami National Party (ANP), are blamed for most of the violence, though both parties deny the charges.

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad released a statement from Ambassador Cameron Munter condemning the violence.

"We call on all parties to refrain from further violence and work toward a peaceful resolution of differences," the statement read.


In some ways, Karachi raises more troubling questions over Pakistan's stability than the northwest border regions seen as a global hub for militants and a huge concern for the West.

As the commercial hub, any trouble could disturb industrial activity, and have serious consequences for the economy.

"If the government does not pay immediate attention to the worsening situation of Karachi, and does not stop the loss of innocent blood, we will shut down our business centers and industries," Muhammad Saeed Shafiq, president of the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement.

According to officials, Karachi contributes 68 percent of the government's total revenue and 25 percent of GDP.

That means a lot of money -- and power -- is at stake.

"This can be summed up in five words - a turf war between political parties," Imtiaz Gul, author of "The Most Dangerous Place: Pakistan's Lawless Frontier" told Reuters.

"This is a turf war between the MQM, and ANP and the PPP, for territory -- for political space in this big city."

The Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is trying to redraw electoral districts, which would disadvantage the MQM, he said, and many local political leaders have connections to criminal gangs that run rampant in the city.

"It's definitely a political and ethnic issue, and a strong political commitment would be needed to bring peace to the city," said a senior security official, requesting not to be named.

"To open fire and kill a few miscreants may stop the violence for now, but in the long-run, a political resolution is a must, or else we will see another surge after a few days."

Riaz Haq said...

BBC Report:

More than 1,100 people have been shot dead in political violence in the Pakistani city of Karachi since the start of the year, campaigners say.

The Human Right Commission of Pakistan criticised city officials for failing to stop the targeted killings.

Much of the violence is associated with battles between rival criminal gangs.

But the chairman of the human rights commission also alleged that many of these armed gangs have the support of the city's main political parties.

As a result they are allowed to act with impunity, commission chairwoman Zohra Yusuf told a news conference.

The BBC's Shahzeb Jillani in Karachi says planned killings and drive-by shootings are now an almost daily occurrence in Karachi, the largest city and port in Pakistan and a major industrial and commercial centre.

Our correspondent says the city, which generates nearly half of Pakistan's total revenue, is plagued by extortion rackets, mafia-run land-grabs and turf wars waged by armed groups fighting for their share of resources.

Many fear that with last week's resignation from the government by the city's main political party - the MQM - increased violence and instability could bring Pakistan's economic capital to a grinding halt.

According to human rights organisations, 775 people died in political and sectarian shootings and bomb attacks in Karachi in 2010. The government put the figure lower, at about 500 people.

Majumdar said...

93 people died in Karachi in 5 days of violence. 63 people died yesterday in Railways accident. More people die in bus accidents in Delhi in one day than die in bomb blasts in Pakistan. The callousness of Indian authorities towards the common man kills more people than all the bums.

Riaz Haq said...

India's transport system is the most dangerous in the world costing hundreds of thousands of innocent lives each year, but it's hunger that takes the biggest toll with over 7000 dying of hunger every day.

Here's a story from the Guardian titled "Indian roads officially the most dangerous in the world":

It is an unenviable statistic but India's chaotic roads are now officially the most dangerous place to drive in the world.

Last year road accidents claimed more than 130,000 lives – overtaking China, which has seen fatalities drop to fewer than 90,000, and prompting a government review into traffic safety that until now has been best summed up by local drivers as "good horns, good brakes, good luck".

Ministers are considering a range of new measures, such as making airbags and anti-braking system mandatory in all cars. Trucks may also be fitted with speed breakers in a bid to bring down fatalities.

However, many experts say that new laws will have little effect in India, where seat belts are rarely worn and where no one can anticipate with any certainty the behaviour of the average road user.

Nor can most road users guess what type of vehicle they will face – Delhi alone has 48 different "modes of transport" including cows, elephants and camels as well as cycle-rickshaws and SUVs.

Rohit Baluja of Delhi's Institute of Road Traffic Education says "the real issue is not car design but road design. About 85% of all deaths on the roads are pedestrians and cyclists not drivers. We do not design traffic management systems to separate different streams of traffic. In America this began in 1932".

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Express Tribune report indicating Pak military opposes any PPP plans to use the military against MQM:

Amidst straining relations between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and its estranged coalition partner, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the military brass is learnt to have opposed a series of moves that could have adversely affected an already tense situation – including any move to launch an operation in Karachi.

The military brass had also expressed displeasure over the possible induction of controversial former Sindh home minister Zulfikar Mirza on a sensitive post in the federal or provincial cabinet, The Express Tribune has learnt.

“Mishandling Karachi’s situation, or using coercive means against the MQM, is not something the country can afford at this point in time,” brass as telling top civilian authorities. The military has advised the government against launching any operation against the MQM, which pulled of the ruling coalition last month.

However, PPP’s information secretary Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the government was not planning any operation against the MQM. But at the same time, he added, “I don’t think the military would stop the government from taking action against the law breakers in Karachi.”

Sources said that the PPP was planning either to make Mirza governor of Sindh or to assign him a portfolio in the federal cabinet after getting him elected to the Senate. Reports of such a move had earlier begun appearing in the media. But the military is said to have precluded such a move.

Sources said that the PPP had planned an operation against the MQM, particularly against it supporters among the Kacchi community in Malir. And Mirza, who has good relations with the Sindh police, had alerted the police officials belonging to interior Sindh but serving elsewhere in the country. Mirza’s plan envisaged an operation against the Urdu-speaking people in order to coerce the MQM into compliance. Mirza’s recent meeting with Afaq Ahmad, the chief of MQM-Haqiqi, was actually a message to the MQM.

When contacted by The Express Tribune, Presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar refused to comment on the issue and instead switched off his cell phone when pressed hard.

Sources said that the military brass contacted MQM chief Altaf Hussain and assured him that the government would not launch any operation in Karachi. Following the assurance, Altaf cancelled a scheduled address to a general party workers meeting on Monday.

Babar Ghauri is said to have contacted PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar to seek support against any operation in Karachi. And PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, in return, held out an assurance that his party would oppose any operation against the MQM in Karachi. Sources said that the two parties would soon start a movement against the PPP-led government from the platform of a grand opposition alliance.

The Express Tribune has learnt that, following its failure to muster military support against the MQM in Karachi, the government’s top leaders took a ‘U-turn’ and decided to send PML-Q leader Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain to Nine-Zero to assure the MQM on behalf of the president that the government would not launch an operation in Karachi. Qamar Zaman Kaira said that the government’s coalition partner might have endorsed Shujaat’s trip to Karachi.

Riaz Haq said...

Karachi retains its title as the world's cheapest for expats in 2011, according to Businessweek:

On the shores of the Arabian Sea lies Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and most cosmopolitan city. Historically, it has been "a city of immigrants," founded by "sailor businessmen," according to author Pamela Constable’s recently published book, Playing with Fire: Pakistan at War with Itself. With a large seaport, stock exchange, and financial institutions, Karachi is home to many foreign workers and expatriates who, despite ongoing security concerns, have taken advantage of the city’s culture, business opportunities—and low cost of living.

In Mercer’s 2011 Worldwide Cost of Living Survey, released July 12, the city has maintained its position as the world’s cheapest city for expats for the second year in a row. Certain costs in Karachi have even gotten cheaper in U.S. dollars over the last year: For example, the average monthly rent for an unfurnished two-bedroom luxury apartment fell to about $293 in this year’s survey from $353 in 2010, show Mercer data.

The real reason for Luanda being the most expensive for westerners has to do with the fact that a typical western expatriate demands western-style housing and consumer products and services which are scarce in the Angolan capital.

In Karachi, there is plenty of good housing, restaurants, supermarkets, and various other products and services suitable and available at reasonable prices for western consumers.

As to the question of safety, American cities like Detroit in normal times are much more dangerous than Karachi in the worst of times.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Aaakar Patel on Punjabis and Urdu-speakers of Bollywood:

The dominant communities of Bollywood are two: the Urdu-speakers of North India and, above all, the Punjabis from in and around Lahore. They rule Bollywood and always have. To see why this is unusual, imagine a Pakistan film industry set in Karachi but with no Pashtuns or Mohajirs or Sindhis. Instead the actors are all Tamilian and the directors all Bengalis. Imagine also that all Pakistan responds to their Tamil superstars as the nation's biggest heroes. That is how unusual the composition of Bollywood is.

A quick demonstration. Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan are the three current superstars. All three are Urdu-speakers. In the second rung we have Hrithik Roshan, Saif Ali Khan, Akshay Kumar, Shahid Kapoor and Ajay Devgan. Of these, Hrithik, Ajay and Akshay are Punjabi while Saif is Urdu-speaking. Shahid Kapoor, as his name suggests, is half-Punjabi and half-Urdu-speaking.

Behind the camera, the big names are Punjabi: Karan Johar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra and Yash Chopra of Lahore.

The Kapoor clan of Lyallpur is the greatest family in acting, not just in Bollywood but anywhere in the world. It has produced four generations of superstars: Prithviraj Kapoor, his sons Raj, Shammi and Shashi, their children Rishi and Randhir, and the current generation of Ranbir, Kareena and Karisma.

Bollywood is a Punjabi industry. We have Dev Anand of Lahore, Balraj Sahni of Rawalpindi, Rajendra Kumar of Sialkot, IS Johar of Chakwal, Jeetendra, Premnath, Prem Chopra, Anil Kapoor and Dharmendra who are all Punjabis. Sunil Dutt of Jhelum, Rajesh Khanna, Vinod Khanna, Vinod Mehra, Suresh Oberoi of Quetta, and all their star kids are Punjabis. Composer Roshan (father of Rakesh and grandfather of Hrithik) was from Gujranwala.

What explains this dominance of Punjabis in Bollywood? The answer is their culture. Much of India's television content showcases the culture of conservative Gujarati business families. Similarly, Bollywood is put together around the extroverted culture and rituals of Punjabis.

The sangeet and mehndi of Punjabi weddings are as alien to the Gujarati in Surat as they are to the Mohajir in Karachi. And yet Bollywood's Punjabi culture has successfully penetrated both. Bhangra has become the standard Indian wedding dance. Writer Santosh Desai explained the popularity of bhangra by observing that it was the only form of Indian dance where the armpit was exposed. Indians are naturally modest, and the Punjabi's culture best represents our expressions of fun and wantonness.

Even artsy Indian cinema is made by the people we call Punjus - Gurinder Chadha, Deepa Mehta and Mira Nair.

Another stream of Bollywood is also connected to Lahore, in this case intellectually, and that is the progressives. Sajjad Zaheer (father of Nadira Babbar), Jan Nisar Akhtar (father of lyricist Javed and grandfather of actor/director Farhan and director Zoya), Kaifi Azmi (father of Shabana), Majrooh Sultanpuri and so many others have a deep link to that city.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Op Ed by Farrukh Saleem on Karachi violence in The News:

Sixty-four years ago a majority of Karachi’s population was Sindhi-speaking. In 1981, close to 55 percent of Karachi’s residents claimed Urdu as their mother tongue. According to the 1998 census, Urdu-speaking residents were no longer a majority.

In 1998, nearly 15 percent of Karachi’s population claimed an affiliation with Pushto (census). In March 2004 began the Battle of Wana forcing economic refugees to head to Karachi. In October 2005, the earthquake sent in additional mohajirs. In 2007, Operation Rah-e-Haq, and in 2009, Operation Rah-e-Nijat, sent in even more mohajirs to Karachi. Then came the 2010 floods and Karachi had to host additional mohajirs. Currently, Karachi’s new, Pushto-speaking mohajirs are estimated to be around 25 percent of the population.

Sixty-four years ago, Karachi’s Sindhi population felt threatened. Karachi’s old mohajirs, the ones who came 64 years ago, now feel threatened by the new mohajirs. Whereas Karachi’s new mohajirs feel disenfranchised and excluded – both from the political infrastructure and the administrative pyramid. Exclusion, particularly youth exclusion, breeds violence. According to a briefing given to the House of Commons, “political systems that fail to address the needs of their citizens, or exclude them from meaningful participation, will not result in ‘stability’ that lasts.”

Violence in Karachi has at least three overlapping layers. At the very top of the pyramid is political violence primarily MQM versus ANP. Then there’s inter-faith Shia-Sunni violence. Then there’s intra-faith Deobandi versus Barelvi violence. And around these two layers of violence are organised criminal gangs, drug mafias, weapon mafias and land mafias. Add to that cocktail a more recent addition – the Taliban whose goal is to de-legitimise the state.

Here are the three primary drivers of violence in Karachi: One, the predatory behaviour of our political leaders; Two, inter-ethnic feelings of relative deprivation (the ‘grievance theory’); Three, elite competition to capture resource rents (the ‘greed theory’).

Here are the two secondary drivers of violence: One, conflict actors see little or no incentive to abstain from violence (the ‘commitment problem’); Two, ethnic geography and the rapidly changed group population ratios.

The PPP, MQM and ANP continue to play their own power games while Karachi burns (the ‘greed theory’). Are our leaders moving towards giving up their predatory behaviour? Has the leadership in Sindh started taking steps to alleviate inter-ethnic feelings of relative deprivation? Are our political parties preparing to restrain their militant wings? So far, the answer to all these questions is a big ‘No’. And as a consequence, Karachi will reignite.

The social contract between the government of Sindh and the residents of Sindh’s largest city has failed. To begin with, the government of Sindh must provide the residents of Sindh’s largest city three things: physical security, economic security and justice. Or, Karachi will reignite.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a western media report on Taliban hiding and raising cash in Karachi as violence continues unabated:

The worst violence to hit Karachi in more than a decade is helping the Taliban to raise cash and allowing their fighters to rest in Pakistan’s largest city, The Times of London reported Thursday.

More than 300 people were murdered in Karachi last month, the majority simply because of the language they spoke. The chaos is allowing the nexus between extremist Islamist groups and criminal gangs to thrive like never before, security officials told the newspaper.

Extortion, drug, land and weapon mafias are bankrolling the insurgents, while fighters and commanders use the city to rest and gain medical treatment, according to political parties. The worst tension in recent weeks has been between the Urdu-speaking majority and Pashto-speaking migrants from the tribal regions of Pakistan.

The Pakistani government refuses to publish census data on the numbers of Pashtuns living in Karachi, but estimates range from three million to five million. Most live in illegal colonies that ring the northern outskirts of the city. The violence has created no-go areas in which Taliban fighters and commanders can operate with almost total impunity.

Overlooking Orangi Town, South Asia’s largest slum, is the notorious district of Katti Pahari, where a road has been blasted through the mountain. The intention was to create a barrier between an overwhelmingly Pashtun district and another dominated by Mohajirs, Urdu-speaking Pakistanis originating from India who make up the biggest group of the city’s 20 million population. Instead, it has become a bottleneck and shooting alley.

It was from Katti Pahari that the worst of the recent violence was unleashed in a four-day assault on the district of Malir. Naushad Asim, whose brother Mohammed, a factory worker, was murdered during it, said, “It was just after sunset when my brother went out to fix his car. He was attacked by men who were wearing beards and long hair and had camouflage jackets. They looked like Afghans.”

The bodies of gang members and political activists are dumped in sacks with their hands and feet tied -- but civilians are left where they fall, the ambulance drivers, whose job it is to clear the corpses, said.

Mohammed Raza Haroon, a leading figure in the MQM, a party that draws most of its support from the Mohajir community, denied that it was orchestrating violent retaliations. “If the MQM did not appeal for peace this city would be on fire,” he said. Although careful to avoid making overt ethnic claims, he said that its opponent, the Awami National Party (ANP), was giving shelter and support to the Taliban.

Shahi Syed, president of the ANP, an overwhelmingly Pashto-speaking organization, denied this as a smear and graphically abused the Taliban by way of proof.

Although there is no chance of the Taliban seizing the whole of Karachi, it is acting with ever greater impunity within pockets that it controls in collusion with criminal gangs. All sides agree that the insurgents and criminals are exploiting the space left by an administration and police force hamstrung by political and ethnic conflict.

“This place is going to turn into Beirut,” Syed said. “It’s dividing on ethnic grounds. We are in a dangerous position.”

Read more:

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian newspaper report on Ramadan violence in Karachi and Zulfiqar Mirza's claims of MQM culpability:

Weeks of violent mayhem that have left more than 1,000 dead in Pakistan's biggest city culminated on Sunday in troops entering a gangster-run district in an attempt to end the violence.

The holy month of Ramadan, supposedly a time of piety, has only increased the slaughter on Karachi's streets, with beheadings and horrifically mutilated bodies dumped in sacks in gutters, the debris from a war between gangs divided on ethnic lines.

Over the weekend, the prime minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, described the violence in Karachi as the country's "greatest challenge".

In an extraordinary televised press conference on Sunday, a senior official of the ruling Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) accused the interior minister, Rehman Malik, also of the same party, of culpability in the killings in Karachi.

Zulfiqar Mirza, the senior PPP provincial minister, claimed he had proof that Malik was "hand in glove with the killers".

Mirza resigned on Sunday, claiming that the city's largest political party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), was behind the bloodshed, allegations that could spark more trouble.

While holding a copy of the Qur'an, Mirza said the MQM was responsible for kidnapping, extortion and violence, including the killing of the journalist Wali Khan Babar, 28, earlier this year. "I am saying it openly that the MQM killed him," he told a news conference televised live around the country.

The MQM was not available for comment about the unusually blunt accusations.

The gang turf war is also a political and financial struggle about the control of extortion rackets – known as bhatta – with three mainstream political parties all drawing support from different ethnic groups and each having a criminal underworld following in the city.

The bloodshed has essentially pitted a gang associated with the PPP, the party of President Asif Ali Zardari, against thugs linked to the MQM, headed by Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in London.

The MQM has long dominated Karachi but it is being challenged by the PPP and the third significant player, the Awami National party (ANP), which represents the city's huge ethnic Pashtun population, originally from north-west Pakistan. The MQM's base is provided by the Mohajirs, people who migrated to the city from northern India during the partition.

British diplomats have been active behind the scenes, pressuring all sides to quell the violence, which is crippling Pakistan's economic heart.

The MQM, the ANP and Karachi's business community have in recent days called for the army to intervene, with at least 1,000 people falling prey to the tit-for-tat killings this year – easily eclipsing the violence by religious extremists across the rest of the country.

But the PPP fears that deployment of the army could eventually topple its three-year-old government and Pakistan's latest, western-backed, experiment with democracy. The paramilitary units deployed, the Rangers, come under civilian control.

The Rangers uncovered torture chambers and arms caches during raids on Sunday in the Lyari district, a PPP stronghold. One dank basement shown to journalists contained a chair with handcuffs and padlocks attached. Two earlier attempts to enter Lyari failed.

The gangs often fail to capture rival gang members, taking out their anger instead on anyone from other ethnic groups – many innocent victims are innocent bystanders, often abducted or killed.


Another senior security official in Karachi said: "The MQM doesn't want to share the cake. But the others want their slice."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting excerpt from a Friday Times story about the centrality of Karachi to the NATO war effort in Afghanistan, and how it impacts the politics and peace (or rather the lack of it) in Pakistan's financial capital:

"Over the years Karachi has become one of the most important cities of the world not because of its ethnic tensions but because of its strategic location and the port which receives more than 80 percent of NATO supplies," a senior foreign diplomat said. ...

Americans have built one of the largest consulates in the world in Karachi and have repeatedly used British diplomats to pressure MQM - one of the largest stakeholders in Karachi - to maintain peace in the city. According to one source, the ANP has huge stakes in NATO supplies and has strong influence among Karachi's transporters.

In Karachi, there are many third-tier sub-contractors working for NATO, most of them of Pashtun and Mehsud origin. They get contracts from second-tier sub-contractors from Dubai, who the contracts have been outsourced to from contractors in Washington, DC.

One such sub-contractor, Abdul Hakim Mehsud said, "Its one of the toughest jobs in the world - recently over 13 of my trucks and three of my drivers had been vanished in interior Sindh. But the profit margins are high and that keeps me motivated."
"In December 2008, militants destroyed 400 containers carrying food, fuel, and military vehicles," a NATO source said. After that, NATO and ISAF began paying tribes to ensure supplies get across safe.

Karachi's ethnic riots, political instability, and sectarianism have earned it the reputation of being the world's most dangerous city. In the last four years, over 5,000 people have been killed in politically-motivated violence. Not very long ago, it hosted Al Qaeda's operational headquarters. It is still considered by many as a Taliban stronghold.

In Karachi's chemical markets, ammonium nitrate is produced by fertiliser companies. While the chemical is on the Pakistani customs control list, it is widely available in open market. This ammonium nitrate is used in improvised explosive devices that account for 66 percent of foreign casualties in Afghanistan since the war started in 2001. The makeshift bombs have claimed 368 troops in 2010. This year, the number has already reached 143.

"We can deliver you big quantities of the chemical at the right price," said Ahmed Jan, a local smuggler, one of the few willing to speak on the record. "For a higher price we can deliver you the items in Afghanistan."

The US Consulate and Pakistani customs intelligence have been working closely to stop the smuggling.

Earlier this year, the National Assembly's Standing Committee on Commerce was informed that more than 6,000 trucks of NATO/ISAF supplies had not reached in Chaman and Iman Garh borders. The disclosure sparked an internal auditing within NLC and FBR and corruption of Rs7 billion was found. The FBR and NLC had reportedly issued notices to 21 and 22 grade officers and had put 100 of its officers and clearing/forwarding agents in the Exit Control List.

The attacks are not likely to stop any time soon, according to a foreign diplomat, "But we have made pacts with warlords, tribes and various stakeholders in Pakistan who ensure safe transit of the goods. They include political parties both in Pakistan and Afghanistan."

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts from Wikileaks on the "Gangs of Karachi":

US embassy cable - 09KARACHI138
Identifier: 09KARACHI138
Origin: Consulate Karachi
Created: 2009-04-22 11:52:00

Summary: The police in Karachi are only one of several armed groups in the city, and they are probably not the most numerous or best equipped. Many neighborhoods are considered by the police to be no-go zones in which even the intelligence services have a difficult time operating. Very
few of the groups are traditional criminal gangs. Most are associated with a political party, a social movement, or terrorist activity, and their presence in the volatile ethnic mix of the world,s fourth largest city creates enormous political and governance challenges.
MQM\'s armed members, known as \"Good Friends,\" are the
largest non-governmental armed element in the city. The police estimate
MQM has ten thousand active armed members and as many as twenty-five thousand armed fighters in reserve.
This is compared to the city\'s thirty-three thousand police officers. The party operates through its 100 Sector Commanders, who take their orders directly from the party leader, Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in the United Kingdom.
Low to middle-ranked police officials acknowledge the extortion and the likely veracity of the other charges. A senior police officer said, in the past eight years alone,MQM was issued over a million arms licenses, mostly for
handguns. Post (Consulate) has observed MQM security personnel carrying numerous shoulder-fired weapons, ranging from new European
AKMs to crude AK copies, probably produced in local shops.

MQM controls the following neighborhoods in Karachi:
Gulberg, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Korangi, Landhi, Liaquatabad, Malir, Nazimabad, New Karachi, North Nazimabad, Orangi Town, Saddar and Shah Faisal.
The ANP represents the ethnic Pashtuns in Karachi. The local Pashtuns do possess personal weapons, following the
tribal traditions of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP),
and there are indications they have begun to organize formal armed groups. With the onset of combat operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in August 2008, a growing number of Pashtuns fled south to swell the Pashtun ranks of that already is the largest Pashtun city in the world. This has increased tensions between ANP and MQM....contd

Riaz Haq said...

Here are excerpts (contd) from Wikileaks on the "Gangs of Karachi":

7. (S) If rhetoric of the police and the ANP leadership is to be believed, these armed elements may be preparing to challenge MQM control of Karachi. In March, the Karachi Police Special Branch submitted a report to the Inspector General of Police in which it mentioned the presence of \"hard-line\" Pashtuns in the Sohrab Goth neighborhood. Sohrab Goth is located in the Northeast of the city.

8. (S) The report said this neighborhood was becoming a no-go
area for the police. The report went on to claim the Pashtuns are involved in drug trafficking and gun running and
if police wanted to move in the area they had to do so in civilian clothing. A senior member of the Intelligence Bureau in Karachi recently opined that the ANP would not move
against MQM until the next elections, but the police report ANP gunmen are already fighting MQM gunmen over
protection-racket turf.
10. (S) PPP is a political party led by, and centered on the Bhutto family. The party enjoys significant support in
Karachi, especially among the Sindhi and Baloch populations. Traditionally, the party has not run an armed wing, but the workers of the PPP do possess weapons, both licensed and unlicensed. With PPP in control of the provincial government and having an influential member in place as the Home Minister, a large number of weapons permits are currently being issued to PPP workers. A police official recently told
Post that he believes, given the volume of weapons permits being issued to PPP members, the party will soon be as
well-armed as MQM. Gangs in Lyari: Arshad Pappoo (AP) and Rahman Dakait (RD)
11. (S) AP and RD are two traditional criminal gangs that
have been fighting each other since the turn of the century in the Lyari district of Karachi. Both gangs gave their political support to PPP in the parliamentary elections. The
gangs got their start with drug trafficking in Lyari and later included the more serious crimes of kidnapping and robbery in other parts of Karachi. (Comment: Kidnapping is such a problem in the city that the Home Secretary once asked Post for small tracking devices that could be planted under
the skin of upper-class citizens and a
satellite to track the devices if they were kidnapped. End comment.)

12. (S) Each group has only about 200 hard-core armed fighters but, according to police, various people in Lyari
have around 6,000 handguns, which are duly authorized through valid weapons permits. In addition, the gangs are in
possession of a large number of unlicensed AK-47 rifles,
Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers and hand grenades. The weapons are carried openly and used against each other as
well as any police or Rangers who enter the area during security operations. During police incursions, the gang
members maintain the tactical advantage by using the narrow streets and interconnected houses. There are some parts of Lyari that are inaccessible to law enforcement agencies...

Zohaib Hassan said...

I don't know why people like Mr. Shams drag Punjabis in every affair. Gas load shedding in Punjab is three days a week since years and none in Sindh untill two days a week announced this year.If dams were constructed we would not be using gas to generate electricity and everybody knows who opposes dams the most, Sindhis. Why? because they want every bit of electricity to be generated by Tharcoal. They say Kalabagh will be an environmental disaster, What about Tharcoal, Guess Allah has specifically made it a non-global warming yeah. I think so, at least.
we have had enough of feeding these people. Tamer Lane was right in saying "these people are Baradar-kush".
If we Punjabis are that bad, why don't you simply support us in the Parliament and pass a resolution declaring the freedom of Punjab, in this way, you the innocent, oppressed people will get rid of us The Punjabis aka Dakoos aka Qabiz so and so.
Why Benazir provided lists of Khalistan movements hideouts to India. Shall I tell you the reason? Because she was afraid that a nationalist movement in Indian Punjab will trigger a nationalist movement in Pakistani Punjab too. Thus how will they loot money, Sindh has no money of its own. Its Punjabi business in Karachi termed the Bangladesh of Pakistan.
Now get rid of us and kick Punjab out of the Federation. That is the only solution left because no matter whatever we do to stay out of your matters you people still chant "Punjab ka jo yar hy, Ghadar hy, Ghadar hy." now bet with me Mr. Shams there are no such slogans in your Sindh. I have alot of respect for Sindh because it is the land of my forefathers but I am surprised, How a Punjabi in other parts of Pakistan is a Punjabi after generations, while everyone from muhajirs to Kashmiris to Sindhis and Pathans in Punjab become Punjabi after a generation.
Please think well about the solution I proposed, "kick us out."

Riaz Haq said...

Karachi's HDI is about 0.799, much higher than Pakistan's national human development index and comparable to European nations of Portugal and Poland, and higher than Malaysia's.

Here's a brief UNDP description of human dev in Pakistan:

According the Human Development Report 2010, Pakistan’s HDI value increased from 0.311 to 0.490 during 1980 to 2010, an increase of 58% or average annual increase of about 1.5% which ranked it 10 in terms of HDI improvement in comparison to the average progress of other countries. Pakistan’s life expectancy at birth increased by more than 9 years, mean years of schooling increased by about 3 years and expected years of schooling increased by almost 4 years. Pakistan’s GNI per capita increased by 92 per cent during the same period.
Pakistan’s 2010 HDI of 0.490 is below the average of 0.516 for countries in South Asia. It is also below the average of 0.592 for medium human development countries. From South Asia, Pakistan’s 2010 “HDI neighbours”, i.e. countries which are close in HDI rank and population size, are India and Bangladesh, which had HDIs ranked 119 and 129 respectively. Pakistan is also compared to the Islamic Republic of Iran, a high human development country.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times blog by Huma Yusuf about Pakistan stalled census 2011:

Yet Population Year is drawing to a close and no census is in sight. There are many reasons: the precarious security situation, repeated flooding in many parts of the country, lack of resources to train the 225,000 census takers required to conduct the head count in time. But the main reason is politics. The major parties draw their power from rural constituencies, and by highlighting the extent of the country’s urbanization, a census would lead to the creation of new urban constituencies.

With an eye toward the national elections slated for 2013, many Pakistani politicians are doing everything in their power to circumvent or delay a count. The country’s largest parties, the governing Pakistan Peoples Party and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N, are particularly threatened by the prospect of reduced rural constituencies. Newcomers such as the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, the founder of Tehreek-e-Insaf, which enjoys significant support in Punjabi cities, stand to gain.

Gerrymandering is not rare in boisterous democracies. But in Pakistan, it can be a matter of life and death. In Karachi, from where I have been reporting for eight years, many of the political parties are based on ethnic groups, and a revised count would lead to a revised political balance. Fears that this might happen are fanning ethnic violence. More than 2,100 people have been killed in Karachi in political assassinations over the past two years — a death toll not seen since 1995, a year of widespread ethnic and political violence. Muhammad Jalil, a community organizer in Lyari, one of the worst-affected slums of the city, told me in August that everyone — women, teenage footballers — is exposed to the violence. “Political activists and gangsters are not the only ones targeted. Entire communities are vulnerable.”

Since the 1980s, ethnic Pashtuns and the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs, migrants from northern India, have clashed over access to property and jobs in Karachi. Criminal gangs with ties to political parties — including the ruling P.P.P. — had been warring over smuggling rackets and extortion rings. But as election year approaches, it is Karachi’s shifting demographics that are driving much of the violence.

Until recently, the Mohajirs were the city’s clear majority, accounting for 48 percent of the population, according to the 1998 survey. But military operations against militant groups in northwestern Pakistan since 2007 have increased the flow of Pashto-speaking migrants into Karachi. By some estimates this group now represents 22 percent of the city’s population, up from about 12 percent in 1998. So now the M.Q.M., the Mohajirs’ representative party, fears that a census documenting the expansion of Karachi’s Pashtun population would lead to a redistricting that would favor its local rival, the A.N.P......

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt from a piece in Express Tribune:

...Karachi contains 62 per cent of Sindh’s urban population; 30 per cent of Sindh’s total population; and 22 per cent of Pakistan’s urban population. Lahore, the second largest city in Pakistan, on the other hand, contains only 22 per cent of Punjab’s urban population; seven per cent of Punjab’s total population; and 12 per cent of Pakistan’s urban population. Individually, the other major cities are a very small fraction of Karachi and Lahore.

Karachi’s large-scale industrial sector employees make up 71.6 per cent of the total industrial labour force in Sindh; 74.8 per cent of the total industrial output of the province is produced in Karachi; and 78 per cent of formal private sector jobs of the province are located in Karachi.

Then there are powerful federal government interests as well, in the form of the Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim, Customs, Railways, Civil Aviation Authority and the armed forces and their various industrial and real estate activities. The city contains 32 per cent of the total industrial establishment of the country; generates 15 per cent of the national GDP, 25 per cent of federal revenues and 62 per cent of income tax. Also, the most important health, education, recreation, entertainment and media-related institutions in the province, are located in the city and so are the provincial headquarters.

Provincial and state governments always have conflicts with powerful autonomous cities since the non-city population of the province or state feels that the city and its assets do not belong to them. Even in a relatively homogeneous country like Thailand, Bangkok was seen by the anti-government Red Shirt Movement as responsible for deprivation and inequity in the country.

The second issue is related to the changing demography of Sindh. There is a fear among the Sindhi-speaking population (in which I include Balochi, Seraiki and Brahvi speakers as well) that they are being converted into a minority in their province. Let us see how real this perception is.

Seventy-three per cent of Karachi’s population in 1941 said that their mother tongue consisted of one of the local provincial languages, 6.2 per cent said it was Urdu/Hindi, and 2.8 per cent said it was Punjabi. Pashtu at that time was nonexistent. In 1998, the local languages had declined to 14 per cent, Urdu increased to 48.52 per cent, Punjabi to 14 per cent and Pashtu stood at 11.42 per cent....

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an NPR report on Chinese investments raising suspicions among Sindhi nationalists in Pakistan:

...Boost in Chinese investment has sparked resentment in southern Pakistan, where activists accuse China of trying to be a new colonial power. A bomb blast recently hit near the Chinese Consulate in Karachi — an ominous sign of the rising tensions.

When Bashir Qureshi, a politician in his late 40s, died unexpectedly last month, the medical examiner said it was a heart attack. But Qureshi's friends and family don't believe that. Instead they claim there's been a conspiracy, and that Qureshi was murdered. Poisoned, in fact — by China.
China and Pakistan have been allies for decades, and China recently pledged to greatly increase its investment in Pakistan, from $7 billion to $30 billion a year.

Maleeha Lodhi, a former Pakistani ambassador to the U.S. and Britain, says that money couldn't come at a better time. "Let's face it: Foreign direct investment into Pakistan has plunged to a historic low," she says. "In this environment, when you have China — the second-largest economy in the world — stepping up to the plate and saying, 'We're prepared to help you,' at a time when others are shy of coming into Pakistan, I think that more than offsets the fears that some may have."

The late Qureshi complained that China's big construction projects rely on Chinese workers and Pakistani migrants.

In recent years, China has faced similar criticisms when it has made large investments in other developing nations, including a number of African states...

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some wikileaks US embassy cable excerpts on Karachi gang violence:

MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement)

2. (S) The MQM is an ethnic political party of the Urdu
speaking community (known as \”Mohajirs,\” which is Arabic for
immigrants) that migrated from India at the time of
partition; Mohajirs make up around fifty percent of the total
population in Karachi. MQM is middle-class, avowedly
secular, and anti-extremist (the only party to publicly
protest the recent Swat Nizam-e-Adl regulations). It has a
long history of clashes with the Pakistan People,s Party
(PPP), which controls the Sindh province in which Karachi is
located, and with the Awami National Party (ANP), which
represents MQM,s rival ethnic Pashtuns.

3. (S) MQM\’s armed members, known as \”Good Friends,\” are the
largest non-governmental armed element in the city. The
police estimate MQM has ten thousand active armed members and

as many as twenty-five thousand armed fighters in reserve.

This is compared to the city\’s thirty-three thousand police
officers. The party operates through its 100 Sector
Commanders, who take their orders directly from the party
leader, Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in the United
Kingdom. The Sector Commanders plan and monitor the...
ANP (Awami National Party – Peoples National Party)
——————————————— ——

6. (S) The ANP represents the ethnic Pashtuns in Karachi.
The local Pashtuns do possess personal weapons, following the
tribal traditions of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP),
and there are indications they have begun to organize formal
armed groups. With the onset of combat operations in the


7. (S) If rhetoric of the police and the ANP leadership is to
be believed, these armed elements may be preparing to

challenge MQM control of Karachi. In March, the Karachi

Police Special Branch submitted a report to the Inspector
General of Police in which it mentioned the presence of
\”hard-line\” Pashtuns in the Sohrab Goth neighborhood. Sohrab

Goth is located in the Northeast of the city.
ST (Sunni Tehrik – Sunni Movement)

9. (S) ST is a small religious/political group with a
presence in small pockets of Karachi. The group has only
managed to win a handful of council seats in local elections
but militarily it is disproportionably powerful because of
the influx of MQM-H gunmen after the government crack-down on
MQM-H (see above). ST has organized the party and its gunmen
along the lines of MQM by dividing its areas of influence
into sectors and units, with sector and unit commanders. ST
and MQM have allegedly been killing each other\’s leadership
since the April 2006 Nishtar Park bombing that killed most of
ST\’s leadership. ST blames MQM for the attack. There
appears to have been a reduction in these targeted killings
since 2008.

PPP (Pakistan People\’s Party)

10. (S) PPP is a political party led by, and centered on the
Bhutto family. The party enjoys significant support in
Karachi, especially among the Sindhi and Baloch populations.

Gangs in Lyari: Arshad Pappoo (AP) and Rahman Dakait (RD)
——————————————— ————

11. (S) AP and RD are two traditional criminal gangs that

have been fighting each other since the turn of the century
in the Lyari district of Karachi. Both gangs gave their
political support to PPP in the parliamentary elections. The
gangs got their start with drug trafficking in Lyari and
later included the more serious crimes of kidnapping and
robbery in other parts of Karachi. (Comment: Kidnapping is
such a problem in the city that the Home Secretary once asked
Post for small tracking devices that could be planted under
the skin of upper-class citizens and a satellite to track the
devices if they were kidnapped. End comment.)

Riaz Haq said...

#MQM's worry: its votes declining in #NA246 #Karachi. 95,000 in 2015, down from 180,000 in 2008 and 137,000 in 2013.

Riaz Haq said...

MQM Leader Altaf Hussain:

"The division of the Indian sub-continent was the biggest blunder in the history of mankind".

"Perhaps the idea of Pakistan was dead at its inception, when the majority of Muslims chose to stay back after independence, a truism reiterated in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971".

— Altaf Hussain's Keynote Speech at conference in New Delhi on 6 November 2004

Riaz Haq said...

With mainstream suspicion of the MQM’s ‘ethnic’ politics and in clinging on to this image of the party, critics seldom take account of the MQM’s complex and highly organised – though rigidly hierarchical and violently policed – structure through which it has been able to ingratiate itself into the networks of patronage and service delivery that characterise everyday politics in Karachi and many other parts of Pakistan. It is this intervention in the everyday, quotidian politics of electricity connections, telephone lines, water supply and channelling of youth energies (through collective activities) that generates the spontaneous consent the MQM generates among large swathes of Karachi’s Urdu-speaking middle and working classes. Moreover, it is exactly such mechanisms of service delivery that interact with its minutely organised local units and militant wing to generate the MQM’s ‘dual power’ structure in Karachi as (almost) an alternative state. The refusal to see the MQM as a complex reality beyond its militant wing also obscures the very real imbalances in Pakistan’s power structure and Karachi’s political economy which laid the groundwork for the party’s emergence. Most serious observers and scholars of Pakistan are aware of the shift in Pakistan’s civil-military state apparatuses since the 1960s, and especially following Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s civil service reforms. Since the late 1970s, the suppression of Karachi’s once vibrant labour movement, weaponisation due to civil-military elites’ participation in American imperialism’s ever-expanding war machine, demographic changes due to in-migration from other parts of Pakistan, state patronage of fundamentalist groups, and intensification of certain forms of labour control and informality, have created ripe conditions for the rise of various types of exclusivist, proto-fascist groups. Thus, the relative marginalisation of Urdu-speaking middle classes from Pakistan’s power structure and changes in Karachi’s political economy due to the above mentioned factors created ideal conditions for the emergence of a new type of political subject which, while drawing upon historical tropes of sacrifice, would interact with existing narratives of regional/ethnic marginalisation of other communities in Pakistan, to forge a ‘threatened’ Urdu-speaking community. The MQM also channelled existing discourses of modernisation which intersected with its class and ethnic bases to create the image and rhetoric of a ‘liberal’ and ‘secular’ party. However, a detailed elaboration of the MQM’s political identity is beyond the scope of this piece. Suffice it to say, the popularity of its brand of politics was less a conspiracy of indiscriminate coercion and/or foreign forces than the result of contingent political articulations growing organically out of Karachi and Pakistan’s changing social realities. Coming to our present predicament, it has to be recognised that many of the structural conditions that led to the rise of the MQM and other exclusivist groups in Karachi remain in force today with even greater intensity. These include Pakistani elites’ continued embroilment in the American war machine, continuous retreat of the welfare arm of the state, the unprecedented in-migration into Karachi (unparalleled in any other mega-city in the world) post-2005 earthquake and civil war in northwest Pakistan, and intensification of informality in both workplace and residential area politics. However, while conditions still remain ripe for the rise of protofascist and violent political forces in Karachi, in light of the changing demographics of the city and the MQM’s inability to reinvent itself – name change notwithstanding – as ‘Muttahida’ rather than ‘Mohajir’, the days of untrammelled dominance of the MQM in Karachi are inevitably bound to come to an end.