Why shouldn’t the MQM demand a separate province?

Published: January 9, 2014

Altaf Hussain is not asking for something which does not exist; the urban-rural divide and distinction already exists, san geographical boundaries. Altaf has only asked for the creation of these geographical boundaries. PHOTO: MQM/FILE

Altaf Hussain is not asking for something which does not exist; the urban-rural divide and distinction already exists, san geographical boundaries. Altaf has only asked for the creation of these geographical boundaries. PHOTO: ONLINE Altaf Hussain is not asking for something which does not exist; the urban-rural divide and distinction already exists, san geographical boundaries. Altaf has only asked for the creation of these geographical boundaries. PHOTO: MQM/FILE

Ever since Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain demanded a separate province for the Urdu speaking population of Sindh, local media and politicians have by and large framed the debate firmly against the MQM.

As has always been the case, any stance that the MQM takes is somehow twisted and presented as anti-state, and this time was no different.

The demand for a separate province is never a preferred or pleasant one, as Altaf has stated himself. However, instead of focusing on the cause of such a demand, most of our media anchors, politicians and nationalist leaders pounced upon the opportunity to bash the party instead.

While the stance adopted by nationalist leaders is understandable, as their political existence is based upon Sindhi nationalism, the carefree stance adopted by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) seemed reminiscent of 1971. It is ironic that the Baloch separatists, who are asking for independence from Pakistan, are considered to be brothers and negotiation offers are being made to them, while on the other hand the people of urban Sindh are considered traitors just because they asked for an equal distribution of resources in the province.

Those who blame the MQM for fanning hatred among the natives of Sindh are perhaps not aware that it was the denial of basic rights and unequal distribution of resources that became the very basis for the creation of this political organisation. Altaf Hussain has been trying to gain equal rights for Muhajirs since 1978 and it is only now, after knowing that he has exhausted all other options, that he has put forward the demand for a separate province.

Under the current circumstances, the chief contributor to the deprivation prevailing in urban Sindh is the PPP. It was the PPP that introduced the quota system, benefiting the population of interior Sindh – its main vote bank. It was the PPP itself that divided its ‘motherland’ Sindh into urban and rural.

Thus, practically speaking, Altaf is not asking for something which does not exist. The urban-rural divide and distinction already exists, san geographical boundaries. Altaf has only asked for the creation of these geographical boundaries, so that there is no longer any invisible division in Sindh so that both, the rural and urban parts, can make better use of their resources.

There is no denying the fact that a large portion of the urban population of Sindh, despite being better qualified, remains deprived from government jobs and admissions to government educational institutes. The PPP, that claims to be a national level political party, (though the way it emerged as a Sindh level party in the last general elections is a different story altogether) has never made any attempt to alleviate the deprivation and injustice prevailing among the urban population of Sindh.

Being the larger party in the provincial assembly, it is the responsibility of the PPP to take steps and address urban Sindh’s complaints. The PPP should agree for the just distribution of resources, accept the mandate that the urban population of Sindh has been giving to the MQM since 1986, and give autonomy to local governments.

True leadership is one that identifies and makes use of opportunities presented in difficult circumstances. A little flexibility and understanding can help the PPP achieve tangible solutions to almost all the problems faced by urban Sindh.

Till now, it is the relatively younger political party, the MQM, which has played its card really well. The way the MQM showed flexibility and approached Ayaz Latif Palejo regarding the issues at hand, shows that the MQM has come of age – it is a mature and responsible party now.

The best part of the MQM’s reach out to Palejo is that it has, for the time being, nullified the most important card PPP had, the Sindh card. I believe it was a master stroke and knowing that the MQM focuses on saving the urban Sindh from injustice, I support this decision made entirely out of necessity.

Syed Arsalan Riyasat

Syed Arsalan Riyasat

An MBA graduate associated with a local bank. His interests include politics, economics, capital markets, international affairs, history and sports. He tweets @arsalanriyasat (twitter.com/arsalanriyasat)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sarr

    I’m sorry, but the MQM has evolved from a party that fought for equal rights to one that resembles a gang bent on illegal practices such as bhatta khori and killing. Giving MQM control over the urban area will just intensify said practices. Division of provinces doesn’t bring about good governance. Revolutionizing the party to perform better will do the trick. Recommend

  • muhammed

    they dont even leave the poor fruit sellers around jamshed road.. they take 20rs per cart everyday… in baldia their guys take money from all hard working ppl.. these guys have no fear for their afterlife.
    my maid came to my house very happy the other day.. shes like the mqm guy who took bhatta from us everyday someone put em to rest permanently.. the whole neighbourhood is happy.. i tried to explain to her thats its not right to be happy about someones death .. but she insisted that i had no idea how the poor ppl of her neighbourhood felt when this guy who would to them everyday asking for bhatta..Recommend

  • Farhan

    Sorry Sarr, your comment speaks of nothing but in-built acceptance of anti-MQM propaganda. MQM has shown it can govern the city well during the 2004-2008 period where Karachi was peaceful.

    The author has clearly defined the logic behind the new province and that is deprivation of ownership and rights.Recommend

  • TheAverageMoe

    Karachi is a multi-cultural city, the most multi-cultural city in Asia(Dubai does not count), it has people from all over Pakistan and from neighboring countries, it also has the most Pashtuns in the world, so if “Urdu-speaking people” get a separate then other ethnic groups in Sindh will demand the same.

    Some MQM supporters like to use the Hazara card or the Seraiki-province card, but they fail to realize the Seraikis and Hindkowans are the indigenous people of the places they live, whereas the majority of Urdu-Speaking Karachiites have roots elsewhere, and they only migrated here some 60+ years ago, on the other hand Karachi has been part of Sindh for 5000 years!Why should Sindh let it go, just because demographics have changed because of mass immigration, the Jews of New York City could use that argument to create New York City into it’s own state!

    Also there are some facts people forgot, not all “Urdu-speakers” are Muhajirs, there are Sindhis,Punjabis and some Pashtuns that now speak Urdu at home, and not all “Muhajirs” speak Urdu, some speak Gujarati such as the memons and bohras, some speak Kokaniz, some even speak Bengali.

    Another fact MQM supporters forget, is that not all “Muhajirs” settled in Karachi, many settled in Punjab & interior Sindh, but you don’t see them asking for a separate province, why is that?Because they assimilated into the local culture, that’s what immigrants are supposed to do.

    Smaller provinces may be good for governance, but they shouldn’t be carved out on ethnic basis(especially if that ethnic group is fake).Recommend

  • Ali S

    There’s nothing wrong with asking for a separate province – in fact, Pakistan needs more provinces, because greater autonomy = better representation of the local population = greater probability of responsible governance. But MQM should be smart enough to request a separate province on administrative basis instead of an ethnic one – this isn’t 1988 anymore, confrontation isn’t going to get anyone on their side, not with their street reputation.Recommend

  • Ali S

    Did you know Baldia Town has one of the highest rates of electricity theft in Karachi? So they aren’t all that innocent. Not to mention that the vast majority of businesses in Karachi don’t pay any taxes – in the absence of a proper infrastructure, ‘bhatta khori’ is actually a rather effective (though morally dubious) method of tax collection. Keep in mind that MQM is the govt in the overwhelming majority of areas in Karachi.Recommend

  • raj

    Though I don’t believe the MQM would indulge in some petty Bhata Khor crimes and even if you say they are then what happens if they have really stopped all the Bhata taking, would you still tar them with the same brush? When the MQM did have resources during Musharraf era there were virtually little crime in Sindh and there was much development. No allegation without any allegation shows people are brain washed by the media.Recommend

  • ABK

    Man you dont live in this country and dont know anything about it. Come here and see what is going on. I am sick of every Tom, Dick and Harry who is trying to be an expert without knowing anything.Recommend

  • JR

    ur wrong dude…. dis only the myth .. nd 4 disolving dat u sustained in ur heart is by accepting mqm the reality nd gained popularity nd mandate thru general public opinion. while others agents of diffrent political…..Recommend

  • JR

    very trueRecommend

  • Muhammad Taha

    MQM is true peaceful political party which fights for muhajir rights in Pakistan.Recommend

  • ali ahmed

    majority of people living in Baldia town belongs to Punjab and KPPRecommend

  • ali ahmed

    geography is not static it always changes …..discrimination always lead to some demand ….and MQM is right in demanding a separate provinceRecommend

  • Gp65

    Those who speak Gujarati are not Muhajirs. They are original inhabitants of Karachi. In any case talking about 5000 years of history is pointless. Hindus had been living in Karachi for 5000 years, even in 1941 census Karachi had 51% population as Hindus – where are they now? I am not supporting or opposing the MQM case but divisions have happened that divided people who were living together for thousands of years before also.

    Secondly on what basis do you say that Karachi is the most multicultural city in Asia? Why not Dubai? Why not Mumbai? Why not Singapore? Why not HongKong?Recommend

  • Necromancer

    Nicely written…….Haters will always be haters……Even Quaid-e-Azam was a traitor when he started his struggle in eyes of the British……..Don’t worry Altaf Bhai Educated middle class hard-working people are behind you……Recommend

  • Farhan

    Same goes for you as well. Come to Karachi and see.Recommend

  • Fahad Hafeez

    Mr AverageMoe : MQM is not asking for a provience baised on language its simply asking for Rural and Urban sindh to be difrentiated so that urban sindh people may they be urdu, punjabi, sindhi, pushto, balochi speaking can get their jobs ! , its not a divide based on ethnicity but a divide based on Urban and Rural areas ! .Recommend

  • Bunny

    Hear, hear. If you cant give Urban Sindhis their rights they will want a separate province. Besides policies for rural and urban areas cant be the same. Altaf Hussain we support you in this demand. It would be a huge breakthrough for Urban Sindh. Rural Sindh might become even more underdeveloped but instead of banking on Karachi their governance structures now need to pull up their socks.Recommend

  • Fahad Hafeez

    But what will happen with this is Punjab’s will govern all , first and formost a division of Punjab is required as Upper and Lower Punjab ! so as all provinces have an equal role in selecting the govt !Recommend

  • What is this craziness? Is this the best kind of argument MQM supporters can put forth? How can a party in power for the last 15 years be complaining of “unequal distribution of resources” in merely six months? MQM is addicted to power and money, but they need to realize that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.Recommend

  • bob

    I do not believe that you even understand what is MQM asking???? Do you? Is it asking for urban and interior Sindh as a sepaarte provinces or isit asking for Mohajir areas as a separate province. Urban Sindh consists of Urdu speakers, puhsto speakers, punjabi speakers, etc. I support in this demand by MQM as I also feel it will lead to better governance and a more equitable distribution of resources.Recommend

  • Fahad Hafeez

    Dear ABK
    so u think he is saying otherwise ? , wasent the tenure of Musharaf the most peaceful and most benifical for karachi ? , i dont remember much crimes being committed !Recommend

  • Talha Rizvi

    Where are the muslims of East Punjab( except Malirkotla) ? Why is Delhi a Punjabi speaking city now? First answer these questions Gp65 and finally did any one mention India here it is amazing you guys go berserk the moment somebody criticizes your country yet have the audacity to come here.Recommend

  • TheAverageMoe

    No, many Gujarati-speaking memons & bohras migrated to Karachi after partition, I’m not talking about the ones that settled before.

    “Hindus had been living in Karachi for 5000 years, even in 1941 census Karachi had 51% population as Hindus – where are they now?”
    Really?Hinduism isn’t even 5000 years old!
    Delhi and Calcutta were majority Muslim, where are they now?We lost those two cities, but we gained Karachi and Lahore(2 cities where Muslims were a minority).

    Karachi is the most multicultural city in Asia, it’s a fact, Dubai may have expats from around the world but they’re temporary residents(the UAE does not grant citizenship),Mumbai is dominated by one ethnic group(the marathis) who make up over 40% of the population, and Mumbai didn’t undergo mass immigration after partition like Karachi did and the other waves of immigration during the wars in Afghanistan.

    Hong Kong is majority Cantonese and the people there have a strong ethnic identity.

    Karachi on the other hand, was a city of only 400,000 and now the population has exploded to 17 million because of mass immigration, from India,Afghanistan and the rest of Pakistan.

    Most cities in Asia are homogeneous, some might be as multicultural as Karachi but those people are temporary residents(such as in Dubai,Doha or Hong Kong), some cities like Mumbai and Tehran might be diverse but they’re dominated by one ethnic group.

    So Karachi is hands down, the MOST multicultural city in Asia!

  • Anwaar

    you gotta be kidding me ????!!! …. Okay fine, there were no bomb blasts (maybe lesser) … but just check out the stats for mobile snatching at that time … of robberies…. it all started when MQM cam into power in the city in MUSHARRAF’s time….my friend do you really live in karachi…?Recommend

  • Anwaar

    right… let us all collect BHATTA …. and by the way FYI the bhatta collected is not used for city development but for “PAIT POOJA” of “karkuns”….Recommend

  • Anwaar

    you really expect PPP to do something for SIndh… its a party of idiots ..always was a party of idiots….they haven’t done anything for their rural voters how can you expect something for the urban side….Recommend

  • Shamy

    For me, all conversations end when a party like MQM is led by gangsters.Recommend

  • ptr

    The real muhajirs are the people living in different areas of Punjab (punjabi/urdu speaking) which migrated from different parts of Indian in 1947′Recommend

  • KRSiddique

    Your logic is as flawed as they come….Karachi by any definition is NOTHING like the rest of Pakistan…and hence if it was to be given its proper stature it will ultimately help the entire country…We need greater resources to manage them…you cannot seriously even consider comparing Karachi to any other city in PAkistan..It is not sindhi, punjabi or Muhajir card….its the Karachi card…bottom line is…together or separate Karachi can no longer be in the same boat as other cities if the country wants to improveRecommend

  • TheAverageMoe

    You say Karachi is “nothing” like the rest of Pakistan, but in reality, Karachi has everything from the rest of Pakistan, it’s a microcosm of Pakistan.

    I do believe that Karachi deserves to receive more funding and more resources, however turning it into a separate province just so it can be turned into a safe haven for a political party, won’t change anything, in fact it would be worse.

    Truth is, once Gwadar port gets going, Karachi will be going downhill and so will it’s importance.Recommend

  • stevenson

    For me all discussion or consideration of the MQM ended when this Altaf Hussain went to India to speak against Pakistan. He even said Muhjairs made a mistake to go to Pakistan and should have stayed in India; If this is his belief, let him make his Urdu speaking state in India where he gave his speech!Recommend

  • Saif

    Where would MQM leader like to have his own province?


  • ABK

    Dear Fahad,

    Brother was there any suicide bombing in Pakistan before the tenure of Musharraf? Now this has started and God knows if it will ever stop. There were many positives at his time but more negatives. Recommend

  • ABK

    Dear Farhan,

    I am an Urdu speaking. Please dont tell me which I know already. Thank youRecommend

  • ABK

    I totally Agree to you on this point. If you look at north Punjab it has been deprived of its rights due to dirty politics of N league. Its important to divided Punjab but not only Punjab its very important to divided Baluchistan too in order to improve the security situation, the province which has 40% of land.Recommend

  • Dr. Alam

    my family also migrated, my grand parents always praised hospitality of Sindhi people and I think we should use Sindhi for our identity instead of muhajir, this article shows hatred and will drown both communities to violence. 15 years MQM enjoyed power at that time they were fine now they demand this hatred. PPP has not governed well in whole Sindh. last 5 years MQM shared power with PPP and was happy. i think writer is biased, he should be neutral. it is just a political war b/w PPP and MQm both or not sincere with province and not governed well.Recommend

  • Oppressed

    ” It is ironic that the Baloch separatists, who are asking for independence from Pakistan, are considered to be brothers and negotiation offers are being made to them.” in the light above words by the writer ,It seems as if Baloch were welcomed with bed roses. For your kind information more than167 decomposed bodies of the political activists are found in Balochistan. These mass graves are reflexive attitude of our so called security apparatus. Balochistan covers44% of the total area ,but the inhabitants are the poorest in the region,,, why so? what the writer has to say about this in case of Altaf Bahi and his gangRecommend

  • mohsin

    very very excellent and true articleRecommend