By Aveek Sen
MQM is one of the major political parties in Pakistan. Seen largely as a party of Mohajirs (those Muslims who migrated during partition from present day India to Pakistan, the founder of Pakistan Jinnah being one), it is probably the only left leaning party that has an electoral foothold in Pakistan. It still continues to dominate Karachi, Hyderabad and certain other pockets of urban Sindh with PPP dominating rural Sindh. MQM was often seen as a kingmaker in cases of hung parliamentary verdicts during previous years.
Over the last 3-4 years, there has been a huge crackdown on MQM by Pakistan’s paramilitary force Rangers. MQM saw some people leaving to form PSP and Farooq Sattar leading MQM Pakistan distancing themselves from the London unit and founder of MQM Altaf Hussain. Huge number of MQM workers have been arrested on the pretext of working for foreign intelligence agencies. Last week, police accused MQM workers of escaping to India. The motive behind the accusations by police seem to be avoiding the proceedings of the judiciary.
Syed Ali Raza Abidi, member of Pakistan’s National Assembly representing political party MQM Pakistan told me that during the last 3-4 years, 700-800 political workers of MQM have been arrested on similar counts of “working for foreign intelligence agencies”. The charges were bailable but it generally took one to one and a half year to secure bail. He added that judges were hearing habeas corpus pleas by family members of missing persons from MQM. Police came up with the claims that the MQM workers fled to India so that they could evade producing them in court as is the norm.
He said that he’s thankful to the judges for being fair in the court proceedings. The court reprimanded the police and asked them how could anyone flee to India so easily. Are there no border controls? He asked them to contact the Indian government and have them extradited if they have fled to India. The SSP of police was granted 2 weeks to come up with his investigation into it. He added that since the procedure is to produce them in court within 24 hours after being taken into custody, the police is just trying to avoid scrutiny by the court.
Further Wasay Jalil, member of the Central Coordination Committee also known as the Rabita Committee confirmed to me that since September 2013, 125 MQM workers have gone missing since the Rangers operation started under the tenure of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He added that prior to 2013, even in the past MQM had faced similar situations. 72 extrajudicial murders have taken place during this period. He added that from 1992-2002, more than 15,000 MQM workers have either been murdered or extrajudicially murdered.
He then went on to explain the situation. He said that we Mohajirs have relatives in India. During the course of the Rangers operation, many MQM workers have been to India to visit their relatives and returned. They are are all branded as Indian spies.
He stated some specific cases. Even under the National Action Plan (NAP), after taking someone into custody it has to be disclosed within a period of 90 days. As per international obligations, they have to anyway be produced in court within 24 hours. On 12th of October, 2013, another MQM political worker named Irshad who was working with the Health Department under the City government was picked up by the Rangers and he’s missing to this day. MQM worker Nadeem’s body was found dumped in the bushes with his hands tied behind his back after he was missing for 4-5 months. 3 parliamentarians have been murdered by Taliban in their present tenure. MQM has been under a sustained crackdown and he expressed sadness at the same.