Who Will Fill The Void?


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With our usual suspects, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), up to their regular antics, it looks like the political horizon is opening up for relatively untried candidates.

As I read Mosharraf Zaidi’s new post, a version of which is in The News, I was filled with a familiar dread. Zaidi brings back memories of 2002, and indicates that, in what is emerging as the absence of others, once again religious parties may find a foothold in a slippery slope. He traces the reasons behind the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Jamaat-e-Islami’s success (I highly recommend that you check out the JI website) after 9/11, and relates it to the present:

…in the past several weeks the Jamaat-e-Islami seems to have been given an injection of adrenalin. It may be hazardous to speculate where the energy is coming from in terms of financing and other logistical support. What is entirely transparent, however, is where the energy is coming from in terms of political substance.

It is coming from an anti-Americanism that has grown far beyond NWFP, and far beyond the mullah’s narrow and restricted space in Pakistani society. The Jamaat is finding it easier to get onto the front page because the only faith it preaches, anti-Americanism, just happens to be the fastest growing faith in Pakistan.”

Zaidi argues that as in the past, the Jamaat may be making a comeback because of the steadily increasing anti-American sentiment in Pakistan. However, to me there is another similarity between now and 2002.

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Mosharraf Zaidi writes of those elections:

…by virtue of the banishment of the party leaderships, the PPP and the PML-N were almost entirely shut out of the electoral process.”

What we are seeing now is an emerging void in Pakistan’s politics given that the two leading parties appear to be busy bickering and bumbling. I say ‘appear’ because there is always in Pakistan’s politics what is beyond the appearance or rather beneath it, and that is the shadowy game of the shadow government.

In this frightening scenario where extreme Islamism synonymous with anti-Americanism is on the rise, it is time for the liberal, progressive parties to step up and take more responsibility. I suggest it warily, but it does appear that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have been making all the right noises. It’s just that their noises are not loud enough; they seem to be limited to Karachi at the moment.

But looking at their achievements within Karachi, it’s a long list with a couple of crucial winners.

Firstly, in what can only be called a civil war scenario that we have seen over the past few months, the only party that seems to have stood out as one with a liberal, progressive agenda is the MQM. They are the single political party to assess (accurately) that the Pakistani people want to hear a sane voice of Islam. The MQM brought together and gave a platform to Islamic scholars who condemn suicide attacks and the use of terror for political gains. The decree from the Ulema Convention at Jinnah Ground stated:

Suicide bombings and terrorist attacks in Pakistan are haram. Offering namaz behind those religious leaders who support suicide bombings and terrorism in the country is also haram.”

Measures such as these can boost the morale of Pakistanis on the ground and overseas given the global reality of Islamophobia.

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Secondly, where the rest of the country has been victim to near-daily blasts in the case of the NWFP, some incidents of terror in Quetta and spectacular attacks in Punjab, specifically the cities of Lahore, Rawalpindi (GHQ) and Islamabad, Karachi has managed to remain secure. The MQM have not claimed that they are the reason behind the stability of the financial capital, but we all know that when there is peace in the city, it is they who are responsible. It is all the more impressive that the MQM leadership is not staking the claim. However, in the world of politics modesty doesn’t go a long way.

Maybe this is the time for a middle-class party like the MQM to come forward and speak to the nation, and become the voice of reason where there is cacophony. Perhaps, the leaders should show that what they have managed in Karachi, they could export to the rest of Pakistan. And who knows? It is entirely possible that Pakistanis will want to listen to a relatively new party that still needs to work to get votes.

As I said earlier, the MQM’s noises are right, they just need to reverberate a little farther.

27 Responses to “Who Will Fill The Void?”

  1. 1 umar tosheeb

    There is still lack of consistency with MQM, they seem to be going toward right direction and all of sudden they go psycho. This was the case when through establishment backing they tried to stop Chief Justice from landing in Karachi. MQM has huge chance in Northern Punjab, they just have to be consistent enough for some time, in order for people to trust them. There is still lots of misinformation out there about MQM in Punjab.

  2. 2 perplexed

    i agree that the MQM has recently emerged as the only party that is talking sense on this issue- except it makes me wonder how screwed we are that were now looking at the MQM as the voice of reason.

  3. 3 Zameer Abbas

    No doubt the MQM has made its presence felt in the national scene. As for your suggestion of the party taking an active part in the national politics, i think its doing it already. Recently , half a dozen of its MNAs came to Gilgit-Baltistan to bolster support for their candidates. Surprisingly enough, their candidates were doing well in many constituencies despite the fact that MQM was taking part in elections for the first time.The PPP and PML(N) have been here for decades but they have failed the people in meeting the expectations.Meeting with the largely Karachi-born delegates gave me an impression that they had a strategy ready to spread their tentacles to all parts of Pakistan very much based on the Karachi model which you have referred to here.

  4. Honestly woman, you never give me any good news!

  5. n:

    the real problem with MQM is the same that afflicts all other political parties – transparency, accountability, internal democracy…

    the one thing that makes it more palatable than other entrenched parties is the utter lack of feudal support and its secular credentials

  6. 6 Sana

    “The MQM have not claimed that they are the reason behind the stability of the financial capital, but we all know that when there is peace in the city, it is they who are responsible. It is all the more impressive that the MQM leadership is not staking the claim. However, in the world of politics modesty doesn’t go a long way.”

    Yes, they are the reasons behind the stability of financial capital because at the same time they are reason behind, from street crimes to terrorism, in the capital. What is the character of a politician who is addressing to the nation from a phone call?? I have seen his videos where he is addressing live and i couldnt help myself to laugh ‘on him’ as he was awfully, pitfully idiotic politician.
    How can MQM stake the claim?? who can know better than them what they’re doin in that city?? It is not their modesty, they’re taking advantage from the present scenario of Pakistani politics.

    I dont think so that from their speeches or whatsoever you say their “right noises” will do any significant difference in other cities of country especially other cities of Punjab because of the awareness people have about the character of MQM.
    I think that this political ‘void’ is temporary and all these political parties will rise again. (i meant PPP and PML-N). The situation of havoc and chaos created by a judicial order is not new to our politicians and like you have mentioned it yourself too that it is mere “apparent” that they are bickering and bumbling. much is still goin on, under the surface. Zardari has always been quite immune to “cases” filed on him or the charges or accusations against him and i dont think so that the ‘businessman’ Nawaz Shareef is as weak as to loose power and let any right arm party come into executive seat. And it would be better if these corrupt mullahs are not allowed to gain power.

  7. It does scare that the religious parties can fill the void. The MMA and the Military are both responsible for creating a monster during their regime. I dont think anyone can forget Mulla Radio and the subsequent problems it created even though there were warning signs in the media. Later on the public fell out of favor with the Military thanks to the same media who was condemning it. All of a sudden they did a U-Turn and that same military is now a hero for fighting those insurgents. The way the media is behaving with all it’s right wing views and anti-Americanism views will make things worse. They dont need to be overtly critical but they have a more balanced view of everything instead of just relying on hosts who are nothing but wackjob conspiracy theorists. May Allah protect our motherland from all sorts of problems.

  8. 8 raiazlan

    well you are right in a pint that the so called Islam oriented parties are in position to get another flick, and the stupid behavior of the both mainstream parties is one of the reason. these two parties are surely fighting a power war which is truly in their own favor it might not effect the life of a common man as the act of terrorism and other major problems can. i am not a fan and not even supporter of MQM, but i really appreciate the efforts and the voice which it has tried to rise. it is the time when the real representatives of the people and i am indicating only the real representatives to come forward and play there part on the stage where it is really required. they should focus to the real issues and to me only those issues are real which are concerned to Conman Man. this antics like fight will only end in a disaster and none of us is ready for it.

  9. I agree with increased anti-american sentiments in Pakistanis which are fair enough. In fact if we measure our dead with the ones died on 9/11 we should burn the world to ashes (as per US policies).

    While on the other hand side, people have also realized the radical Islamic groups like Al-Qaida and Taliban are no good for us as well. Our people actually needs to be who they really are, we are not barbarians like animals. We are the nation of Allama Iqbal (RA) and Quaid-e-Azam (RA).

    What this country needs is a fair, loyal, educated, & open minded leadership which is only Imran Khan. If you guys do not understand this, and do not recognize Imran Khan as the true leader of Paki people, you are at a mistake. You are doing no good to Pakistan other than creating more FUSS about everything!

    May Allah Help us and guide us out of this situation!!

  10. 10 Ali

    Why the leader of that party is not willing to come back and face the cases against him? The coward should come back.. I do not see this party any different from other parties in Pakistan.. Actually they’re worse as the leader doesn’t even reside in Pakistan..

  11. seen your thing above am shocked and surprised, whats happened to imran khan – dr awab will be deeply unhappy after you came on the laidback show. Sad that no one speaks up for pti what is happening to pakistan.

    The strange part is i expect jamaat and juif and others to pick up between 60 to 100 seats due to american action in afghanistan, drone attacks and any thing going on in india and also things going on outside pakistan including one which everyone will find out about in london. their parties will be biggest gainers in next parliament thanks to the us govt and a stupid act in london.

    Also i expect pmlq and musharraf’s party (expect it to come to life next year and expect him to try to bring ppl in) and aml to come around as a coalition govt as most ppl will see the ppp and pmln as one coalition as that is campaign advert i would run if a general election came up reminding ppl of their movement if the ppp and pmln dont fix the current problems which it seems they both are not fixing any problems just time filling each other time until the next general election – it likes a husband and wife act with both playing each other parts. They both waiting for next election its looks like that. They will campaign on certain success of their movement both parties but most ppl in pakistan will vote for change of certain type for themselves, bilawal bhutto will turn out to be their best chance of retaining and winning seats if they lower the age of mna and president and nawaz will go with shahbaz as his main vote winner.

    The mqm will use the karachi model as ppl say but how far can that really work if mustafa kamal does not stand as mayor of karachi again as he is a vote winner and most ppl who see karachi will be very impressed with the bloke and he has cross party appeal no interest in sectarianism only development and change to karachi which the mqm need to carry to all parts of pakistan, even dr awab agrees on mustafa kamal mayorship.

    The local govt system elections should be held as soon as possible and mustafa kamal should stand. i dont believe in administrators to run countries, elections should be held as quickly as possible.

    happy new year to you naveen and drawab and mr kapadia and good luck with your new show on dawn also try to get those two a job on dawn presenting for a set for them and webcast it as laidback show as a blog show.

    I expect a mish mash parliament next time round with no one in overall majority unless a certain event occurs like benazir death.

  12. note above expectations not predictions are based on what ppl can see now and not what ppl can see at the time of the elections, circumstances of pakistan might be totally different from now in 2009. As it only 9 days to the new year in 2010, 3 full years away if say the election has to be from 24th march 2013. therefore running for election begins in 2012.

    also i exclude massive vote rigging and hope for free and fair elections.


  13. 13 Nasir Habib

    This make sense..

  14. 14 Liberal

    What Pakistan must fear at this stage is the “unclear mandate” rather than “unclear agenda” of the right-wing or far-right parties. Because what Pakistan needs urgently and essentially at this stage is peace with its neighbors. everything else would fall in line accordingly. And this peace can be brought about by that much desired “overwhelming majority govt”. Whosoever comes to power must not be feared in this era where international community keeps a watchful eye on every nation. Moreover, ultra-right India or ultra-right Pakistan can not exist together. Even an ultra-Hindu state like Nepal had to give in, finally. So is Iran on that path in near future, most likely.
    Pakistani elite has generally criticized India for giving recognition to erstwhile dictators. But the fact of the matter is that in the absence of majority governments in Pakistan the army has been the de facto power broker with whom a sustainable deal could have been brokered. Its upto Pakistan if her masses could spring up an effective alternative to that. Need of the hour is an overwhelming majority govt which can deal easily with its neighbors, be it of ultras(though very unlikely) or moderates (if Bilal and Sanam come on board? dont know!). Wonder if there is any other young alternative to NawazSharief within his own party. But young leaders, if come out unitedly, can, perhaps, bring about the change.[p.s. I know very little about your political parties]
    Good Luck!
    @democratically on Twitter

  15. I agree on what you said and Its really important for MQM to get loud if they want to go National. They are doing it though but its not easy to clear up the perception which people have. No matter what ever MQM does for the betterment of the people, People are bound to think or put the same old allegations on them like some one said about street crimes etc.

    They are taking right steps on right time so far and I wish they would remain the same. There is a huge vacuum in Punjab being created and may be not the next election but the next to next would give out the result of MQM’s work in Punjab forsure. MQM doesn’t go and start talking about things. they are making their roots ant it would take time definitely.

    There is no doubt that one of the big reason of Karachi’s stability is MQM and their stance on Talibinization, Swat deal (NAR) and then NRO were bold from the start and almost every one even criticized them but we see they were right. The MQM’s word got proved later. Even being a major coalition partner of PPP, they haven’t never compromised on their principals. NRO wasn’t presented in assembly because of MQM.

    I see, people of Pakistan are educated enough or at least have learnt to start differencing between good and bad or bad or least bad we can say if some one says MQM not party of angel either. They have never claim that though.

    I wish MQM good luck for the future and I hope people from the Punjab and other provinces would give chance to moderate party who have set an example on major issues and development.


  16. indeed a nice article. Summarizing what is need of time

  17. Well as far as One’s character is concerned, i think literate people are the best judge. Despite tons of state oriented propaganda against them, People of Karachi which is indeed the most literate and urban city of Pakistan case there vote to them ? Ok, you will blame that they threat people or temper election results .. but what about the 1993 general election that was the time when the Operation against the party was on its peek and the election was conducted under ARMY supervision which is one demand of Imran Khan (to conduct Election under Army in Karachi, which is again contradiction in his stance… On One hand he demand Jirga System in Tribal areas .. Why not Pakistan’s constitution be implemented in Tribal belt if it is a part of Pakistan and why Election in Karachi under Army Supervision ? ) the same guys got elected with the same mandate ? haha quiet funny .. Imran Khan should start its politics with an AGENDA and not with the agenda to oppose everyone, BUT supporting Taliban and extremist…

  18. 18 Rumaisa Mohani

    Very true Naveen… You have said the things about MQM, one needs to be bold enough to come up with, as we see severe hatred and negativism about it on the net every where. I just hope people start seeing the reality, as who is the real enemy of Pakistan’s sovereignty. The real enemy is blowing up educational institutions and killing thousands of innocent people, to open our eyes wide and embrace the truth.

  19. 19 Mohsin Meer

    What is the existing situation and what will be the future scenario counts. What “should have been or what should be” has no significance in “real world”!

    My short political predictions;

    1) This is the last PPP government and end of PPP’s major role in Pakistan’s mainstream politics.

    2) PML(N) may make next “coalition government” with MQM as a major ally. PML(N) has no moral or political edge over PPP but one man – Shabaz Sharif – will be the winning factor. (read again – Shabaz Sharif and not the Nawaz Sharif) PML(N) san Shabaz Sharif – a man with a solid character and undeniable deliverables – will have a same fate as PPP. So they should pray for his health and life.

    3) MQM has no danger to get weaker or vanish despite what type of leader they have. His followers are “better” than leader in all arenas where their leader “excel”. So no one can snatch their “Catch 22” MNA seats – a good enough diving borad for “Muthaida Muhajir” interests. But they should stop day dreaming of ruling Pakistan single-handedly for their heinous past crimes against Punjabis in Karachi. They may not even be able to win a single seat Punjab despite their current success of winning one in Azad Kashmir by the ballot votes of Kashmiris living in Karachi. (who can even dare to defeat Mafia in their HQ?)

    4) Mullas of any type have no future in politics in near future or even in far future. They may win few seats here and there in their stronghold pockets of illiteracy belt areas and these seats will be good enough for their “bread & buttered halwa”.

    5) All the above is good until 2016 and 2017 elections will be the “Elections for Change.”

    So until then “enjoy” the “intellectual debates” and as Sana coined – “right noises”.

  20. @salman jafri although this is not my blog, but i will tell u this, the laid back show has nothing to do with politics or which side our guests favor..it is about current affairs and tech we do not discriminate on political leanings.

    for your info Dr awabs partner in crime.. mainly me is a known and vocal advocate of mqm..if he can tolerate me im sure naveen expressing her opinion is not an issue lol

    @naveen I agree with you and where you are wary i am sure that the future of Pakistan rests in the emergence of parties like MQM on the national scale. It is in my regard the only political force which is secular, educated, organized and vocal enough to become something in our political arena. It also has the added advantage of having very hard working people in its cadres and has proved itself in Karachi time and time again.

    We all praise Mustufa kamal but ask him and he will tell u it is the party behind him that deserves respect…

  21. to mr kapadia

    Saw above i thought u were jamaat e islaami with your massive flowing beard 🙂 lol

    Sorry joke

    The shahbaz sharif thing is probably true in punjab pmln will have to keep hold of seats with musharraf muslim league party coming in with awami muslim league and pmlq with ppp and jamaat and mqm and pti all battling for seats in punjabs with people who are not getting tickets for official mna standing independently.

    next election is 2013 and followed by 2018 election or sooner if a no majority govt comes about a coalition of the willing comes to life- willing for federal minister seats.

    Other parties will come to see new faces come in to play expect sharif children plus pmlq children such as moonis elahi come to fore, bilawal bhutto , mustafa kamal, several other younger candidates coming into law changes in the next election to lower mna age of election.

    unlikely to be last govt of ppp i expect the country to turn back to other party either pmlq or musharraf muslim league or a coalition of some type from the past like iji type coalition to form next govt if people dont think current govt good enough just a question of how many seats are held by pmln and ppp after next election and mqm and jamaat islaami and pti and anp.

    Thats pakistan and its all really depends on whether whoever can ride the wave to power at time on whatever issue is the big one at the time.


  22. 22 Muhammed Zafir Zia

    Assalmoalikum all,
    with due respect i totally disagree with author’s point of view. Mr Zaidi’s ,of which the author has given a reference is full of biases and is an unsuccessful attempt to malign the image of Jamaat Islami.
    The author’s idea that Karachi has remain safe is not correct.It was last week of November in Karachi in 2008 that innocent Pathans were killed from chai wala’s to cobblers and chowkidars by MQM goons and thugs. Over 50 innocent people died within 3 days and the entire media kept a mum and did not project the violence of Karachi as much as it should had been.
    I met a few journalists in Islamabad this year and they agreed that media aint free yet and MQM has influenced and threatened the media on various occasions.(Hum sab umeed sai hain, four man show and other programs where politicians are mimicked are ample proof that MQM has pressurized the media as no one can mimic altafhussain)
    One example was when Geo and Ary were blocked throughout Karachi( on 16-17 Nov 2008 ) just for not covering Mustafa Kamal’s arrival at the airport when he had won the all so controversial “no. 2 mayor award”. Only 2 journalists of Pakistan Mr Ansar Abbasi and Khushnood Ali Khan wrote over this issue of MQM pressurizing the media.
    The MQM and the militarty establishment are hand in hand today and therefore MQM enjoys the complete free hand in Karachi.We must not forget the mid nineties when the entire Karachi was being burnt due to MQM. MQM had unleashed a reign of terror and since then has held the entire city hostage.

    People may disagree but these are facts what i have narrated.

  23. @ Zafir Zia
    u do not belong to karachi so don\’t know facts.
    u read what was published in control media, in Takbeer whos editor was taking money from agencies and his name is present in the list of people got money from Mehran Bank Scandal.
    People mostly have pain in their bellies are not from karachi so please don\’t argue.
    We know who burnt karachi, who made Haqiqi and who is responsible for the carnage in karachi from last 60 years, the story doesn\’t starts in 80\’s or after MQM, it\’s a long story of persecution and we know it very well.
    If Karachi was burnt due to MQM then who was killing Mohajirs before the creation of MQM ?
    who kiled more then 400 in one nioght in Qasba Aligerh ?
    what about Language riots in Sindh ?
    The reason of operation against MQM was not only domestic but also it has foreign agenda.
    MQM successfully defended karachi, otherwise agencies planned to convert Karachi into Swat and FATA, what is happening in FATA and Swat would be happening in karachi.

    I really appreciate Naveen for a wonderful post, Yes Naveen MQM is going to fill the Gap, don\’t listen to people who run their mouths over internet, they don\’t know the ground reality.

  24. 24 Muhammed Zafir Zia

    @Khaled faruqi
    Firstly brother u r wrong when u say that u dont belong to Karachi. I was born in Karachi and am living since last 25years and belong to an Urdu speaking family.
    MQM was and is responsinle for every wrong in Karachi. MQM is sitting in power in the treasury benches with those who killed Muhajirs is u consider that it was wrong to kill muhajirs (ANP,PPP).
    MQM made hue and cry that on 27dec 2007 Karachi’s wealth was plundered cars burnt etc but i believe MQM was responsible for not controlling the situation. MQM was incharge of city governement, MQMs governor was ruling the province and has law enforcement agencies, rangers at his disposal and can even call the army if necessary. But since MQM had to cash in and gain sympathies MQM allowed Karachi to be burnt.
    MQM is a mafia having lust for pwer and can do anything to remain in power. MQM has criticized the PPP, PML-N, Establishment , waderas and Jagirdar’s but have always been in power with all of them. MQM was in coalition 1988 with PPP, in 1990 with PML-N, 1993 with PPP, in 1997 with PML-N, in 2002 with Mushrraf (the esablishment itself) and now again with PPP in 2008.MQM cannot stay in opposition now as they no they cannot survive without being in power.
    MQM criticizes PP for killing 15000 innocent Muhajirs but are sharing the power with PPP and have sold the blood of their martyrs for few ministries.
    It is MQM which have killed over 30 policemen involved in “Karachi operation” from 2002 -2007 ( i can provide u the facts and figures if u want). Those policemen were following governement orders and had to pay the penalty for apprehending the killers & extortions of MQM.
    Over hundreds of activists of MQM have been killed in Karachi despite MQM being in power having the powerful portfolios of home ministry during the musharraf tenure. Leaders like Khalid Bin Waleed , Shahood Hasmhi, Naushad urf Major dandy were killed by MQM for going against the party lines following the fanmous quote “jo quaid ka ghaddar hai maut ka haqdaar hai”.

    Rona dhona band karo abb k mahajiron ko mara hai sab nai…abb muttehida ban chuki ….bhai meray

    So brother facts and atrocities committed by MQM cannot be published by the media which is so- called free to-date.

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