Using ‘Altaf Bhai’: The joys of studying politics

Published: November 7, 2011

I uttered Altaf Bhai's name and the security officials treated me as a VIP. PHOTO: AFP/ FILE

Being a student of political science comes with handicaps in a country where debate on current affairs and peccadilloes of politicians is ubiquitous, yet awareness of an academic discipline dedicated to the study of politics is scant.

There’s one particular incident at Lahore airport that I vividly remember, when being a student of political science got me entangled in a rather bizarre situation.

As I walked inside the international departure terminal, I noticed that yet another security check had been installed. Some men in shalwar kameez stood listlessly, as airport security personnel fiercely rummaged through their luggage.

Being a ‘laadiss’ from a privileged background, I typically would not have been subjected to such insensitive scrutiny. But fate had it planned otherwise, when a scowling security official approached me.

“Madam, what’s in there?” he questioned sternly.

“My belongings,” I replied curtly.

“What do you study?” he asked, stroking his mustache with his fingers.

“Political science. Is this a relevant question, Sir?” I inquire sharply, in an annoyed tone.

My answer eased his frown.

“Our future politician! You must be following Sherry Rehman’s footsteps.”

Why are people so stupid? I thought with a grimace. Instead of striding away with my baggage — something I should have rationally done — I chose to correct him. “No, I am not,” I replied curtly.

“What?” he asked suspiciously.

His expression darkened and his eyes narrowed. Alarm bells rang in my head and I half-expected him to fumble through my suitcases just because I didn’t want to be a Sherry Rehman-inspired politician.

But I still foolishly chose honesty over an easy escape — at least for the time being.

“Just because I am studying politics, does not mean I am going be a politician,” I retorted.

“Kyun, jee (why not)?” he asked sounding almost offended, with his hands on his hips and face contorted in a dreadful scowl.

My exchange with the grouchy security officer had clearly taken an awry turn.

But then, I simply decided to fib my way out of the strange situation.

“I am following Altaf bhai’s footsteps, I mean,” I said with a wayward smile.

“Oh…,” his voice trailed off in confusion and he looked slightly intimidated.

He screamed to the security officer handling the baggage screening, “Clear Madam’s baggage quickly!”

With a secret laugh, I relished the unforeseen advantage of studying politics. If only it could also get me first-class seating, I thought wistfully while walking away with the airs and graces of a VIP.


Maria Waqar

A journalist working for The Express Tribune. She can be reached on twitter at @MariaWaqar

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

  • Shayan

    Not a bad idea.All i need to do is grow a moustache and grab a fake ray ban and voila its suddenly safe to roam around in Karachi.Recommend

  • Imran

    G.A. Altaf bhai :) … He got you off atleast…Recommend

  • Kashif Iqbal

    I couldn’t understand this story. Waste of time. Recommend

  • Mirza Abeer

    This story made me question whether I made a mistake by replacing Dawn with ET as my newspaper. THIS ISNT NEWS/INTERESTING!Recommend

  • umair

    please give me back 2 minutes of my life.Recommend

  • B

    I had a similar experience in Islamabad airport when I was travelling to the UK for university. I passed through immigration, and there was an extra guard at the door who was just checking if passports had been stamped properly. He asked me where I was going and what I was going to study, in a very rude manner. I replied Economics, and he gave me a very suspicious glance and asks me, ‘what is the basic rule of demand and supply?’ I stood there, shocked, and snatched my passport back and walked off. He had no business asking me that.Recommend

  • Baber

    What the hell women. I do it all the time, infact a lot do it all the time but never had they felt the need to tell this achievement to anyone, especially news. Its just something that comes to you naturally when you’re from Karachi. Though I didn’t know that it would work on Lahore Airport.Recommend

  • shahbaz

    I didn’t understand your point of view what you make to understand us in actual””’ Recommend

  • GarbarGotala

    you be fun-nee! :D Recommend

  • Javed Afridi

    No one couldn’t have explained it any better, nice read.Recommend

  • jarrie

    Fantastic Story , truly shows the real face of our society , being scared of RICH ONES , HIGHER RANKED OFFICERS , MASS MURDERERS , MAFIA KINGS AND SO MANY OTHER POWERFUL PEOPLE . How can our people do some good for their COUNTRY , we have to eradicate people who are forcing our country to be demolished by thugs and hypocrites . well done once again
    . Recommend

  • Amna

    someone being intimidated by this “Altaf Bhai” who himself in England is really nothing to be proud of. People should not be scared of real politicians….people are scared when having a different opinion or speaking against someone can cause them their life or other danger. And also, his being in London shows that he is a bit intimidated himself. =)Recommend

  • Rizwan

    Hello, I some how think this piece has a very deep cut over the handling style of MQM.. Recommend

  • Ali Hasan

    Hah! Quick thinking! Also, this isn’t a news report, people. I find myself wondering how many blogs ET must publish before people understand the difference between blogs, articles and reports. Recommend

  • Ali Mustafa

    what ?Recommend

  • Ali Tanoli

    @Maria Waqar,
    You should pray for you are from rich family and dont lived in karachi shanty town like
    liaqat abad or landhi ….. then u know the real face of MQM …Recommend

  • Nauman ul Haq

    Maybe the security official was just taken back with your attitude?Recommend

  • Saadi

    I’m still trying to understand the message given in this article. May be I’m so dumb that i can’t understand it or ET is trying to become a host of every such article that has nothing to do with productivity……Recommend

  • Sayeed Tajik

    Mazloomon ka sathi hai Altaf Hussain.
    Mazloomon ka nara hai Altaf Hussain hamara haiRecommend

  • Parvez

    Liked your story and the way you leave the reader to draw his/her own conclusions.Recommend

  • HINA

    best part was LAADIS* :DRecommend

  • Nauman ul Haq

    Do you think anyone who is not studying politics would not know Altaf Hussain or the fact that he is referred to as Altaf bhai?Recommend

  • Anthony Permal

    Kuch samajh nahi ayi! Point kia tha?Recommend

  • Imran Kamyana

    What exactly Express Tribune wants by publishing this kind of pointless stuff? Promoting Post Modernism or what?Recommend

  • Acorn Guts

    Seriously doubt this ever happened to be honest ..Recommend

  • AMCH

    ok ok we came to know that you have travelled and took international flight- rest is the story and you were completely failed to register your point through this blog- better writing next time- huhRecommend

  • Hira Tariq

    This is the first time, i’m commenting in Express Tribune – i’m a regular reader of ET, but this is the first article that made me type here!
    I had an image that ET readers are quite enlightened group of people, but the comments here have made me change my mind!
    Even a blind wud extract the purpose of this article.
    It was to tell the readers, that what image do people have of Altaf Hussain – what sort of DADAGIRI he has spread around, that even cops spare you if u just quote his name or show any sort of link to AH.
    This is what situation is – a mafia is running.
    Uneducated, good-for-nothing people are roaming like PHANNAY KHANS, just by saying, that we belong to Altaf Bhai!
    Altaf’s only purpose that had left now is – he is useful when it’s about scaring people.Recommend

  • Hira Tariq


  • Arsalan

    That’s what he wanted to hear from the start perhaps. Being Karachiite, you are bound to be mistaken as Altaf bhia’s supporter by non Karachiites which is ironic because you can always sense people judging you on that. Recommend

  • Nauman ul Haq

    @ Hira Tariq – That may be true in Karachi but here in Lahore no one gives two hoots about Altaf bhaiRecommend

  • Salman Orangiwala

    @Nauman ul Haq

    They donot give two-hoots , right .Yet they migrate enmass to Karachi to earn two-square meals . Thats what you are providing to the poors of Lahore /Punjab .Got the difference ?Recommend

  • Anonymous

    I wonder why people blame Zardari for the ills in Pakistan, conveniently forgetting the fact that Altaf Hussain was the first person to nominate Zardari for president ship. Whatever has happened in Pakistan during the last three and a half years, the onus lies directly or indirectly on the Rajni Kant of London…!!!

    Immediately after getting a nod from the GHQ/establishment, the “Kutta, zani, #&$$$%(&(^” of yester years has suddenly become the “blue eyed” boy for Altaf Hussain. He continuously uses the word revolution in his speeches totally oblivious of the fact that if and when revolution comes, it will be against them. Presently MQM (read Most Qualified Murderers) is the one party that is supporting the feudals, although it claims otherwise but with the likes of Babar Ghouri, Haider Abbas Rizvi etc. in its ranks who hold their assets abroad, their dual standards are exposed.

    In my opinion, had the perpetrators of 12th May 2004/2007, the carnage of 9th April 2009 (burning of lawyers) and arson of Boulton Market been brought to books, the situation would have been different altogether.

    But, then again, we are a bunch of forgetful people……Recommend

  • Amjad

    Perhaps you need to remind yourself why Indian Muslims left India and moved to Karachi. They too wanted two square meals and a chance to live in a free country. The Sindis have welcomed people from other provinces such as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Baluchistan as well as immigrants from India and Afghanistan. Understand the difference?Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala

    @ Amjad .

    Karachi was Kolachi , a mere fisherfolks abode with a fistful of them in 1947 .The immigrants made it the Mega metropolitan that it is now . People who are migrating en masse are migrating to the “Paka Pakaya” metropolitan ( even from Interior of Sindh )to earn two square meals , which their Elected reps and Macho Elites like those and you who are blessed to have a Laptop and a dongle , have failed to provide them for the last sixty years .

    See Bro , THAT’s the difference .

    Atleast have some gratitude .Recommend

  • AMCH

    Lolz lolz lolz (Rajni Kant of London & Most Qualified Murderers)
    L O L z
    Keep it up ! Recommend

  • Anonymous

    @Salman Orangiwala:
    The original inhabitants of Kolachi were Parsis, Memons or Hindus. These people welcomed the migrants who later on were labelled as Mohajirs or Urdu speaking (I wonder how Urdu is the word “speaking”…!!!). The point which you have emphasized in your two comments is that Karachi being a port city is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy as it generates PKR 1.000 billion daily revenue. I would like to ask you that why this “mega metropolitan” of yours is turned into a blood bath when the interests of MQM are not served. Is it because “I own Karachi and can burn it, sell it, destroy it….”???

    In my opinion, as long as the Urdu speaking community continues to be held as hostage in the hands of MQM, we cannot expect the situation in Karachi to normalize.Recommend

  • Silent Observer

    “A wise ruler invents enemies and then slays them in order to control his own subjects.” (The Prince by Machiavelli). I think that’s the principle on which “Altaf Bhai” operates…!!!Recommend

  • Reluctant Fundamentalist

    In Mafia culture, Omertà is a rule or code of silence that prohibits speaking or divulging information about certain activities, especially the activities of a criminal organization. Same is true for MQM which is not just a political party, it’s a Mafia…!!!

    Secondly, power is of two kinds. One is obtained by fear and the other by acts of love. Power based on love is thousand times more effective and permanent than the one derived from fear.
    In the words of Dale Carnegie “Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy.”Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala

    @Anonymas , so got the diffference .
    It is irrelevant who welcomed whom , It was our legal , moral and constitutional right to settle in Karachi as promised by Mr.Jinnah and the founders of Paksitan .The point is who turned Karachi into this Mega Cosmopolitan where a hundred thousand migrates every month to have a living and had been alwys welcomed unlike Lahore or Islamabad .

    So by default “we own Karachi ” . Digest that .

    And for that age old rhetoric MQM is holding us jimmy , has kinda lost its appeal as this is the only lame excuse you outsiders can come up with to appease your innerself rather than facing the truth .

    That is the CRUX of the problem , you donot try to understand our problem so we expect the least from you .

    Karachi’s normalization is directly proportionated to the Unpoking of noses of people who has nothing to do with Karachi ( including semi literate Land barons of Interior Sindh ) and LEA who donot belog to Karachi and let us mann Karachi as we want to , being in the majority .Isnt that what Democracy assures of ? Recommend

  • IQ

    @Anonymous’ 2nd last comment:
    Why you are blaming Most Qualified Murderers by naming Babar Ghouri and Hyder Abbass Rizvi for their assets abroad? This might be such a white collar & sophisticated (criminal) accolade they have in their CVs.
    Their profile gets enhanced in recent JITs (yeah yeah MQM denies them all- as usual because they can’t dis-prove them so left with no choice) Hyder Abbass Rizvi and Anees Qaimkhani were named as Regional Directors who operate recently arrested terrorists (trained from South Africa & India) in Karachi against their war with ANP (ANP & MQM both are equal culprits), have killed hundreds of innocents in Karachi from June2010-July 2011. Please don’t under-rate them- at least do justice when their achievements are being described.
    @ your last comment:
    Urdu speaking people are not their only hostage- they have abducted the autonomy of each and every institute, organisation, community in Karachi by Coercion (resulted into killings, bhatta, qabza, terrorism etc).
    They reprehensively environ Karachi in elections to get sham votes and that is how they win their seats. Now ANP is here to do the same in their populous areas (because of their synergy deal with Govt), so now they fight with ANP to control the hijacked city.
    Pitty on PPP Govt. to get maximum benefit from the war of these two barbarians’ groups because they need to stabilize their govt. in Sindh and Asif Zardari wants no one’s enmity over it. At least we should be courageous enough to talk open about Evil Doers- no hesitation please !!!!Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala

    @ Silent Observer aka Reluctant Funda aka AMCH

    Had the mafia culture been in vogue in Karachi and had MQM been eliminating its rivals ,guess what ,there wouldn’t have been a single voice like you to tell the tale and blurting hate monging .Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala

    @ the Moderator of ET , you ought to have witty enough to track the IP adress of a same person posting with different aliases . You know who I mean , read the posts and you will find out who I mean ( IQ , Reluctant Fundamentalist ,Silent observer etc ) you must be more intelligent than me as this ,you must have been doing for a long time being on your JD .Could you please do something and be fair .?Recommend

  • Anonymous

    @Salman Orangiwala:
    And what exactly is your problem…??? Also please explain why and on whose behest did MQM change its name from Muhajir to Muttahida…???Recommend

  • Salman Orangiwala


    I was wondering if people who lack moral courages and play dirty writing with different names in a blog ,are supporiting Imran . With them in the cadre I am so optimistic Imran will loose the battle even before it begins .Good luck and Bon Voyage .Recommend

  • Tanzeel

    Salman Orangiwala wins the debate because he has singlehandedly outsmarted PTI and PML N “ouyen ouyen kids”. Now you Noonis and Torus get a life and enjoy mudslinging with eachother on GT Rd.

    Inquilaab Zindabad :DRecommend

  • Ather Sultan

    @Salman Orangiwala:
    It seems that either the moderator at ET is anti-MQM or some sort of conspiracy is being hatched against MQM. Talking of conspiracy theories reminds me of Altaf Bhai, who, nowadays is crying of foul play just like you.

    Like leader, like follower…!!!

    I think there should be level playing field and one should respect the view point of others.Recommend

  • IQ

    Thats what the problem of MQM is having which his representative Salman Orangiwala is exhibiting here also and that is; Wrong Conjectures/ Lies all the time [the respected ET moderator you know he is wrong so why don’t you reveal to him that different people having one voice (of truth) is always not a conspiracy]
    JITs show how dirty this party (rather the gang) is. I am sure that some actual dirty writings can keep on revealing their true face.
    This is not the assembly where you will shout and then after a boring press conference will fool your audience. Neither you can apply coercion over here. Unfortunately MQM through activists like you can not seize the voices at blogs because you can not show your guns over here. Unluckily blogs’ space is not under any unit or sector in-charge.
    Since you are wrong in your current conjecture due to your wrong estimation, bad prudence, and an emotional state of mind, and I know it because other contributors whom you just nominated also know that (as they must be smiling too), I am confident that you might be wrong in so many of your theories too about this party also.
    Moreover MQM can not eliminate their rivals anymore because they have been “EXPOSED” well in past days by the independent media, both electronic and print.
    @ Tanzeel if you benchmark youtube, you would lose because there your party’s captured terrorists are telling everything- Openly. I am sure I don’t need to paste those links since media have shown enough of these in past days.
    Orangiwala sb., instead of this traditional & useless tussle, kindly read the blog again and review how beautifully the writer has depicted the perceptual map of general public about your party & leader. Do you have this art too? I am afraid , not !!!!!Recommend

  • BADurrani

    @Mirza Abeer:
    You do realize this is published on-line in the blog section and isn’t supposed to be a news piece but rather a means for people who are not journalists by profession to share their experiences and offer their views on them.Recommend

  • Sayeed Tajik

    e naqib e inqilaab Altaf AltafRecommend

  • Nimo

    What was that ? :/ May be Anti MQM type thing ?
    Whatever ” Altaf Bhai ” Rox MQM RoxRecommend

  • Saliha

    @salman orangiwala

    Immigrants themselves seething over new immigrants from other parts of the country. How ironic is that? Baqi sara mulk ghareeb, bas karachi pakata hai aur sab khatay hain. Kabhi qadam rakha hai orangi say bahar? See the world honey, if your bhai lets you to do that. Its a FACT that nobody gives two hoots to altaf in punjab. Digest that too. You claim to be a migrant taking pride in using the city’s resources for building up your life,and in the same breath you refuse this very right to other immigrants from other cities? We mohajirs had full legal , moral and constitutional rights to settle in Karachi as promised by Mr.Jinnah and the founders of Paksitan. And ofcourse jinnah absolutely refused this right to any other pakistani, right? And just so you know, urdu-speaking people are NOT the only migrants. Theres a plethora of punjabi muhajirs settled in punjab. get off this high horse of ‘ hum ne mulk ko bacha k rakha hua hai’. And yeah, i hope you, or none of your migrant friends and family members live in US or UK, for you apparently cant digest the paka-pakaya khana ideology,do you?

    Ps: im a karachiite. Mohajir. Just so everyone knows that breeds like salman do not represent all of us.Recommend