EDITORIAL: The MQM quits — again
It looks like the MQM is up to its old tricks once again. It has announced, rather unceremoniously, that it is quitting the coalition both at the federal and provincial level as it has had enough of the PPP’s “autocratic” and dictatorial” ways. This has come in the wake of the postponed polling on some seats in the Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) elections. According to the MQM, the PPP was hounding it to relinquish its seat from Karachi but the MQM refused to withdraw its candidate and so, to pressurise it, the PPP postponed the election. Of course, the PPP denies that such tactics were employed. The MQM has called the PPP’s measures “oppressive” and has taken swift action to distance itself from President Zardari’s government. Governor Sindh Ishratul Ebad Khan of the MQM has already tendered his resignation and all MQM ministers belonging to the Sindh cabinet have also sent in their resignation papers. To push this point further home, federal ministers Dr Farooq Sattar, Babar Khan Ghouri and Dr Nadeem Ihsan have also walked away from the federal cabinet. That is plenty of hullabaloo and the same loud noises that the MQM made the last time it quit the ruling coalition, only to return when this pressure tactic to have its demands met worked. Therefore, while one can be amazed at the swiftness of this resignation operation, we really have seen and heard it all before.
So, what is it all about then? Does it all boil down to one seat in the AJK elections for the MQM to quit the coalition or is there something more to it? There are rumours making the rounds that the AJK election was a convenient excuse to part ways as, after the MQM’s rejoining of the federal cabinet some months back, the PPP government really had not handed a big enough issue to the Sindh based party to force it to leave. It is being speculated that the MQM may just think it has a good chance of bagging some heavy electoral votes in the upcoming elections in 2013 and hence is looking to go it alone. Only time will tell if the MQM has read the tea leaves right. Its unsuccessful efforts so far to expand beyond its Sindh urban base, especially in Punjab, may suffer further setbacks in a solo flight. All the usual and loud noises aside, if the MQM really is serious in leaving the coalition this time, what will be the impact at both the federal and provincial levels?
As far as the centre is concerned, the devastated coalition, after the departure of the JUI-F and MQM last time, went from pillar to post to prevent the set-up from fracturing. Hence the PML-Q was made part of the coalition after which the MQM rejoined. This time, it seems as if the PPP has enough numbers because of the inclusion of the PML-Q to totter along. However, it is at the provincial level that the toughest questions must be asked. It is well known that if the MQM resents its loss of power, Karachi could be immersed in yet another cycle of violence of the kind it has been seeing all too much of lately. Politics is a messy game and it is possible that if the MQM is not in power in Sindh, it may try to upset the democracy applcart entire.
While the MQM is well within its democratic rights to forfeit the coalition, it must remain within the norms of democracy to show its displeasure with the party at the centre — in this case the PPP. For that it can join the opposition (for which it has extended an invitation to the PML-Q also) but it must keep its opposition non-violent and within peaceful boundaries. *
SECOND EDITORIAL: TTP split
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) now has an offshoot, Tehrik-i-Taliban Islami (TTI). Fazal Saeed, a TTP commander from Kurram Agency, declared that he was parting ways with the TTP leadership and along with his 500 fighters he is forming his own group, TTI. “We abhor killing innocent people through suicide attacks and bomb blasts, attacks on our own army and destruction of social infrastructure. The new organisation will not attack our own security forces,” Saeed said in a statement on Monday. Saeed protested at “suicide attacks against mosques, markets and other civilian targets”. It is important to note that Saeed vowed to continue jihad against foreign forces in Afghanistan and anti-Islam elements within Pakistan. Even though Saeed’s splinter group might not have much of an impact on the TTP’s terrorist activities, it is an indication that the TTP is not a solid and cohesive organisation.
When Hakeemullah Mehsud became Baitullah Mehsud’s successor, it was said that he was hot-headed and immature. Maybe his lack of leadership qualities have led some members of the TTP to now come out in the open about their displeasure with the organisation. It is said that recently Hakeemullah Mehsud ousted a commander from Orakzai Agency for being pro-government. On the surface, these small defections or ousters in the TTP may not seem important but if this trend continues, it is bound to weaken the TTP. What needs to be done right now is for the army to take advantage of this situation. The TTP has not just targeted civilians but also the Pakistani security forces. While the TTP is considered ‘bad’ Taliban by our military establishment, the Haqqanis are assumed to be ‘good’ Taliban. This distinction must end if we really want to rid Pakistan’s soil of terrorism. A crackdown against the TTI must also be carried out for many of its commanders are responsible for the brutal murder of Shias in Kurram Agency. Pakistan should not tolerate sectarianism, which has been going on for far too long. All sects and religious minorities need to be protected by the state. *