Letter to Altaf Hussain | Elections 2013

May 2013

British politician George Galloway has called for the arrest of Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Karachi-based MQM party, who resides in London, following a threatening public address to Karachiites. In  his speech, Hussain condemned the protests in Karachi against the rigging of the election there and threatened the  protesters with violence. He also threatened to sever Karachi from Pakistan if his party’s mandate was not accepted. For Urdu speakers, the speech is available here

The MQM, a secular, ethnic party claiming to represent the interests of the muhajir community has maintained a near stranglehold on Karachi politics for decades through electoral support, and also, coercion and intimidation. But, in a post-election Pakistan, the outlandish and aggressive Hussain may find he will face resistance from Pakistanis–including those he claims to represent.

To MQM leader, Altaf Hussain, who has just finished a heated address:

I belong to a muhajir family. But despite every bit of support your party claims to offer us, I choose to distance myself from your speech, your politics and your mandate.

It makes no sense for you, the head of Karachi’s leading political party, to threaten segregating the city from the rest of the country if your mandate is not accepted.

It is even worse that you give this statement as a political leader claiming to facilitate the interests of Karachi. As you speak, thousands of the people you claim to represent, are lashing out against election rigging, and they blame the followers of your party for that corruption.

Whether MQM workers are responsible for the bulk of the rigging in Karachi or not, the rhetoric presented by you is unacceptable. It borders on pure absurdity. In a country struggling to heal existing divisions, do your threats to divide us further offer any hope? A few hours after 60 percent of the population put their safety in peril by stepping out to cast their ballot, do your words extend any solace to Karachi or the larger country?

In fact, when was the last time you stepped foot in Karachi, the city you claim to represent?

You threatened to slaughter peaceful Karachiites protesting rigging at Teen Talwar with swords, claiming that a single order by you is enough for the demise of hundreds of unarmed civilians.

You attempted to marginalize the protestors by labeling them “burgers” or “insafiyaans.” But, you make a mistake: You assume those not physically present at the protests stand behind you and your party when in fact, these protestors you oppose speak for ALL of us. Not a political party. Not an income class. They ask for justice and democratic rights and their demands have the backing of every educated inhabitant of the country.

These protests are a historic instance of the resilient, patient, unshakeable people of Pakistan, finally voicing their frustration against a system inherently skewed against the civilian, the voter, the ordinary man, the suppressed woman. These activists do not merely demand the victory of a particular political leader. They want a safer city. They wish for a just election. And they deserve to build a better life for their families and future generations.

Before threatening their lives, perhaps you could look into whether their complaints have any truth in them. Or, are you afraid of what you may find?

As a staunch Karachiite and a Pakistani, I have no qualms in saying no to  your attempts to terrorize us. I stand for the people of Pakistan regardless of income class, political affiliation or any other distinction. You do not.

A Pakistani,

Areeba K.

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