One of the classic difficulties of a coalition has been illustrated by the MQM, which has pulled out of the alliance even before being allocated ministries in the Sindh government, where that were most crucial, let alone the Central government, where they followed as a corollary.
Though the MQM has positioned itself as a broad-based national party, it remains a narrow ethnic party with its roots in urban Sindh, appealing only to mohajirs, who lack a provincial identity, particularly after 1971, when all realised that if Pakistan is a true federation, all citizens have a provincial identity to go along with the federal one. The MQM realised that too much of the power within the Pakistani polity rested with the provinces, the MQM has always sought to be part of the Sindh provincial government. That has meant being part of the federal government, which the MQM has been gracious enough to. In fact, the MQM has been part of the government, both provincial and central, since 1988, when it first took part in the general elections, though then there was no single entity as the MQM registered with the Election Commission, and thus the members were categorised as independents. However, they still showed the incredible party discipline that was to be their hallmark. They left both the central and the Sindh governments over the invasion by the police of the Pucca Qila, Hyderabad, which left many dead.
The MQM rejoined the government after the elections, but this time it was an IJI government headed by Nawaz. Again, the MQM left, though this was over the army operation that was launched all over the province’ but in MQM strongholds as well. In fact, the MQM men, now duly registered with the Commission at last, did not just leave the ministries they held, but resigned their seats. But a few seats did not see resignations, because of the founding of a separate MQM, which called itself the mohajir, not the muttehida. This second MQM was instrumental in propping up the Muzaffar Shah ministry, because its members prevented the opposition led by the PPP from defeating the government in a vote of confidence that they, could otherwise have passed. Interestingly, the then CM, was the Sindh Assembly’s outgoing speaker, and the then Leader of the Opposition, Nisar Khuhro, the new speaker.
The next elected Sindh government was headed by Qaim Ali Shah, and had its usual MQM complement. This was the era of Naseerullah Baber as interior minister, and of the body-in-a-sack era, when Altaf and Qaim both lost brothers to this grisly phenomenon. When Nawaz came back to office, after the 1997 elections, he brought the MQM along even though for the first time ever his PML (N) was second to the MQM in all constituencies, and in a few the MQM even lost, but matters so declined, that he chucked them out of the ministry, imposed Emergency under Article 234 and replaced Chief Minister Liaquat Jatoi with Ghaus Ali Shah as PM’s adviser. The MQM was made the subject of neither an operation as in 1993, nor of a Baber-style hunt, but the MQM was traumatised by this dismissal, enough to keep leader Altaf Hussain abroad, where he had been since 1989.
Under Musharraf, the MQM did not prosper, but it survived, to the extent that it won its urban Sindh seats in the 2002 elections, and got its seats at both the national and Sindh levels, including in the cabinets. It was at this time that the MQM was identified as the King’s Party par excellence, a role which it is still playing.
Thus, after the 2008 elections, the MQM was expected not to form part of the ministry in Sindh, and thus in the Centre, because the PPP alone could form the Sindh government, and the four-party coalition could form the central government. Besides, the MQM was a King’s Party, and was expected to strengthen the main King’s Party – the PML (Q). But the MQM attempted to gatecrash by joining both governments.
First, the PML (N) objected mainly because the MQM was not at all on its side in the issue of the judges’ restoration. The PML (N) could already sense that the PPP was changing position on this, and the MQM would provide the PPP the perfect excuse to back out. But that the PPP persuaded the PML (N) that it should not stop the formation of the Sindh government. Then occurred the Arbab Rahim and Sher Afgan incidents, and despite Asif Zardari’s visit to Nine-Zero, the MQM used them as an excuse to pull out of the coalition at all levels.
It is noteworthy that, Article 58(2)(b) or no Article 58(2)(b), no Sindh Assembly has lasted without the MQM as part of the ruling ministry. When the MQM leaves the ministry, it is a matter of months for all the governments, provincial and central, to go. This is the first time that the MQM has not joined a ministry, and also the first time that it has been so obviously and overtly the King’s Party. But it does seem as if the MQM has been tapped for a role by the King’s Party: that of creating disruption in the National and Sindh assemblies.
It is possible to see the Presidency in operation: a King’s Party must not be part of this government. It must be in the opposition, and it must play a positive role in the War on Terror, as the MQM is doing. It should be possible, probably later this year, for the president to point out the present assemblies both to the Pakistani people and to all of those foreigners who were so concerned abut Pakistani democracy, that the results of the democratic experiment have not meant an improvement in the efficiency of the War on Terror, but indeed the reverse, and the only solution is not more democracy, but more Musharraf, in the form of an election where the King’s Parties, including the MQM, get their just reward.
The MQM is a political player, not the president’s tool, whatever he may think, and it will keep on talking to the PPP for the life of this parliament about taking office. But at the same time, it is not entirely a free agent, for it must be responsive to the people who voted for it. True, the MQM might tell its voters what to think, but it also follows them, most notably in the decision to be a King’s Party. But the decision was by the voters of the MQM, and succeeding decisions have to follow the same pattern. No individual should rely on the MQM.
Source: The Nation, 19/4/2008