Pak-Sarzameen Party (PSP), which emerged in Karachi as a result of differences within Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) after 2013 elections, will demonstrate its power today (Friday) for the first time since its formation in March this year, with a public meeting in MQM’s stronghold Hyderabad, in
connection with its preparations for the next general elections. However, the question remains whether it would be able to dispel the impression that it was formed with the support of the establishment?
While MQM-London convener Nadeem Nusrat clearly sees the establishment hand behind formation of PSP, the MQM-Pakistan has especially sent its Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar to Hyderabad to show its presence too, prior to its own public meeting in Karachi on Dec 30.
PSP President Anis Qaimkhani, who belongs to Hyderabad, is confident that Friday’s show would draw thousands at Pacca Qilla, the meeting venue.
Former city nazim Mustafa Kamal is confident that within a year, his party would be in a position to cause some upset in the 2018 elections. The PSP has not yet contested any by-election and aims at the next general elections.
Major split was on the cards within powerful MQM since the day it held its general workers meeting on May 19, 2013, when some of its sector and unit workers humiliated most of the leaders of the Rabita Committee. The outcome of this meeting and its follow-up developments caused major dent in the party and it’s now facing an uphill task to forge unity. Pak-Sarzameen Party was the fallout of the intra-party conflict, which after August 22, caused further split and dividing the party into MQM-Pakistan and MQM-London.
In three years, the party was divided into three parties: PSP, MQM-Pakistan and MQM-London. While the latter is facing an unofficial ban since August 22, the law-enforcement agencies had also sealed Altaf Hussain’s residence, Nine-Zero, once used to be party’s headquarters and its office, Khursheed Memorial Hall.
Months before the formation of PSP, Kamal telephoned this writer from Dubai and expressed his displeasure over the affairs within the MQM and accused Altaf Hussain and some of his close men in London as well as in Pakistan. It was the first contact since he left Pakistan after general workers meeting. I asked him if he had left the MQM. “Practically, yes and I am really sorry that I gave my time and energy to it.” He appeared quite frustrated and for the first time also disclosed that many other party leaders were dejected the way they were humiliated.
But, he did not mention or even give a hint of forming a new party or joining any other party. He was also unhappy with the role of the former governor, Dr Ishratul Ibad, and the MQM leaders in Pakistan.
The fallout of May 19 meeting was also felt within the MQM, including among those who are now part of the MQM-London and MQM-Pakistan. Some of these leaders started talking publicly about Altaf Hussain’s speeches at Jinnah ground and one noticed that party is losing discipline, which once used to be the party’s strength.
Beside Kamal, Anis Qaimkhani, Raza Haroon, Anis Advocate, who all have joined the PSP, the leaders like Haider Abbas Rizvi, Babar Ghauri, Faisal Sabzwar, Ishratul Ibad, though in low key, started speaking up about the problems within the party.
So, the writing was on the wall, and one was expecting a split. As the operation geared up against the MQM, its chief Altaf Hussain’s tone became very harsh. In 2015, the Lahore High Court, for the first time, imposed a ban on the media to publish or air his speech or even statement, in print and electronic media.
Unlike in 1992 operation, when the party saw its first split, led by Afaq Ahmad and Aamir Khan, the events which unfolded in 2016, caused serious dent, not only in the MQM office-bearers, but also in its vote-bank. In 1992, MQM’s major organisational strength remained intact and despite an army operation, the Haqiqi could not cause any major dent in party’s vote-bank, though it led to years long fight between the factions and as a result hundreds of their workers were killed.
In 1994-95, police operation wiped out MQM’s alleged militancy, but the party survived. Though it lost six seats in 2002 elections, its organisational strength remained intact and the party bounced back in 2008 elections.
Formation of PSP was somewhat different from the other split within Muttahida. Mustafa Kamal launched the party from a house in Khyban-e-Sehar, Defence. Even the house was not properly decorated or furnished when he addressed the first press conference there.
The PSP now has a big office and claims that its membership has reached thousands, majority of whom come from within the MQM. It has also set its network across the country.
Both the MQM-Pakistan and London are not very optimistic that the PSP would be able to gain public support. But, in the post-August 22 scenario, MQM’s further division has further divided the voters and there are still lot of confusion among its electorate.
The PSP programme reflects more of former president, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s programme of devolution of power and strengthening of local governments. Though Kamal claims the PSP is a national party, it has not yet come out with its national plan.
The party flag has caused a controversy as no political party could adopt the national flag as the party flag.
The PSP is yet to prove its worth but still has time. But, the biggest challenge for it would be to dispel the impression that certain forces are behind its formation and are still providing it support.
It would certainly be interesting to see how much crowd Kamal-Qaimkhani combination pulls to Pacca Qilla today, a week before the MQM-Pakistan’s public meeting at Nishtar Park Karachi on December 30. The two parties would then switch their venue in January or in February.
The MQM-Pakistan has little edge over the PSP, as far as its organisational strength is concerned. But they have their own problems. For both of them, the real challenge would be the presence of MQM-London, despite an unofficial ban. Which way the voter will go will determine the fate of all the three. But, as situation stands today, it’s a sorry state of affairs for Muhajir vote bank, which stands divided. The silent voter is still undecided.