Karachi: infamous for its permanent blots of blood-red paan pichkaris, ever growing heaps of eternal garbage and seemingly immovable gruff Punjabi Rangers has finally gotten good at disposing off its most permanent stain – the Bhai.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday removed Dr Farooq Sattar from the position of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) Convener following a bitter revolt from within the party; one that the ECP was forced to arbitrate. Farooq Bhai, once synonymous with MQM and Muhajir politics, now cuts a forlorn figure that was out-maneuvered and out-foxed by his opponents within the party. With no apparent way to reclaim his party’s mantle and symbol – the kite – all Dr Sattar can do is rail against the “hidden hands” which “engineered” his downfall, hoping against hope that his message resonates with a few of his former party members.
However, the average MQM member, and voter, is spoilt for choice. Only soothsayers – and some self-proclaimed soothsayers on prime time television – would dare to chart the intricate web of loyalties and issues that the average MQM voter will have to navigate before picking its next Bhai.
The first choice is the old MQM packaging that carries a new taste – Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and Kanwar Naveed Jameel, leaders of MQM-P Bahadurabad faction that are now the de-facto leaders of the MQM-P. Those pinning for a more authentic flavor can still side with Farooq Sattar and whatever splinter group he manages to string together. The bold, seeking a newer thrill (think Mountain Dew to the MQM’s Pepsi) can pick Mustafa Kamal’s Pakistan Sarzameen Party (PSP) which is choked full of MQM defectors and detractors, but still comes in a surprisingly fresh and minty (read pro-establishment) aroma. Of course there is no beating the classic; the original Bhai – Altaf Bhai. Leading the MQM-L – the L stands for London – Altaf Bhai still hovers around the edges of Pakistan politics in a profound stupor, exuding menace and inviting pity in each – increasingly rare – video that he releases.
Some urban Karachites may use this confusion to ditch the brand altogether – like the freshly laundered, milk white, baby cheeked Aamir Liaqat – and join other parties in the province; who incidentally are circling the carcass of the MQM like hungry carrion, ready to rip apart each morsel they can find.
Despite this maelstrom of uncertainty that surrounds the MQM and urban Karachi politics, one thing is certain; the monolithic MQM of old – one that inspired fear into the hearts of opponents and ruled the city of Karachi with an iron fist – is no more.
Who will fill the power vacuum left behind; who will pick up the pieces; who will emerge as the predominant MQM is anybody’s guess.
P.S. Those who enjoy irony, and disturbing mental images, can think back to Farooq Sattar’s forceful removal of Altaf Hussain from the party and try to imagine Altaf bhai merrily singing “what goes around comes back around” by Justin Timberlake – in the voice of Justin Timberlake.