MQM — emergency surgery
Events have moved swiftly since the leader of the MQM, Altaf Hussain, based in London, made an inflammatory speech on August 22. Within minutes of calling on his followers to “go to” the offices of private TV channels, there were rampaging mobs at two of them. He followed up with derogatory comments about the state of Pakistan itself and the military and paramilitary forces. Chaos reigned for an hour, at the end of which there was one dead, dozens injured and a damage-bill in the millions of rupees. Then followed the decision to move against the MQM by the military. Senior MQM figures were quickly detained and the party premises searched and sealed, and the dust began to settle by midnight. Come the morning and there was the ritual apology, as there always is, from a sorrowful Altaf Hussain in London pleading that he was under extreme stress when he made his remarks and he was seemingly under the impression that it was back to business as usual, no matter death, injury and damage. Not so.
Something shifted overnight deep within the MQM hierarchy in Karachi, and when Farooq Sattar was released on August 23, he dropped the equivalent of a political bombshell, the explosion of which is going to have consequences yet unseen. He announced what amounts to a soft coup within the party, saying that Altaf Hussain’s speech was “regrettable”, “anti-Pakistan” and “anti-MQM”, and that the events of August 22 must never be allowed to happen again. The MQM will henceforth be run from Pakistan, said Mr Sattar, and in that moment the status and position of Altaf Hussain as the unquestioned and unquestionable supremo of the MQM was shaken to its roots.
Reference was made to the frequent outbursts from London that were bad for the party and its image, and that Altaf Hussain needed to “resolve his issues” before going on air to cause yet more mayhem. Mr Sattar called for offices to be reopened and said that the party would announce further developments within the “next few days”. Whatever they are, the unity of the MQM is on a knife-edge, but as a party it will survive. Whether Altaf Hussain will survive as its leader, however, is in considerable doubt.