With each passing day since the May 11th elections in Pakistan, the calls for re-polling in Karachi, the largest city in Pakistan, continue to grow louder. Altaf Hussain, the chief of MQM, (the party claiming to have the voters mandate in the twin cities of Karachi and Hyderabad), has made multiple outrageous threats against rival protestors.
1) Threatening the protestors gathered at the ‘Three Swords Monument’ in Karachi with slayings with actual swords if he as much as gives the signal to his colleagues to carry out his orders.
2) Threatening to breakaway the city of Karachi from the Federal Republic of Pakistan if according to him his party’s mandate is not honored. He has also recanted having ever said this while his original statement is part of a recorded speech being replayed on Pakistani media.
For almost three decades MQM has ruled the city of Karachi with an iron fist. The MQM head, Mr. Altaf Hussain, can call for paralyzing strikes that shut down the entire city at a moment’s notice. Business owners, transportation companies and average citizens are compelled into submission; the consequences of non-compliance are grave. All of this is usually done via a single phone call from his comfortable perch in London.
MQM has been widely accused of employing an armed wing which is involved in extortionist threats against businessmen and rival political turf residents. MQM denies the charge. The party has also been accused of manipulating and controlling the law enforcement apparatus in the city to their convenience. In the past MQM politicians have openly threatened rival politicians and even members of the judiciary from even entering the city. In May of 2007, the Chief Justice of Pakistan was effectively quarantined at the Karachi airport and not allowed to enter the city while rampant bloodshed and a brazen political turf war shook the city to its core. Other politicians are routinely threatened on political talk shows in the media. Even the broadcast and electronic media of the country is afraid to speak out against the MQM. During the same incident of May 2007, journalists were not only shot at on the streets in Karachi but also in their physical buildings; one such incident prompted journalists and program participants to take cover while a live broadcast was taking place. MQM has denied all involvement in these incidents.
These proceedings have not gone unnoticed in England. A prominent British Member of Parliament; Mr. George Galloway has led calls for Mr. Altaf Hussain to be prosecuted on grounds that Altaf being a British National is a “procurer of terrorism” in a foreign country.
And while the Karachiities are used to Altaf Hussain’s endless tirades issued via telephonic addresses from London, things seems to be different this go around. The current group of protesters, largely from the rival political party, The Movement for Justice, led by the charismatic former Cricketer Imran Khan, are standing up to the MQM. They are emboldened by thousands of young voters who are demanding an end to the terror tactics employed by the MQM. They have been chanting slogans in unison demanding an end to MQM’s reign of terror.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has started to take notice and has demanded a review of polling data from all precincts in Karachi and elsewhere in the country where irregularities have been reported.
The voting patterns at various polling booths are being challenged. The image captured below points to the total votes casts in multiple constituencies and suggests that the lopsided vote count of the declared MQM winners is not logically possible as it would amount to having a vote cast every 5 seconds, which according to the accusations would be physically impossible given the time it takes to validate the identity of the voter, issue the ballot papers, cast the vote for both national and provincial candidates and to finally submit the ballot papers in the collection bins.
Whether the votes are overturned or a re-election is called in either certain constituencies or the entire city of Karachi and beyond is yet to be seen. For now one thing is certain, at least a significant portion of the subdued voters of the city of Karachi have risen up to demand that their vote be counted and that the process be fair and transparent. Large scale protests against the MQM have never been staged in the city used to being controlled by the whims of a political party using a proverbial on/off switch to control their daily lives. This uprising led by young people with visible involvement by women and the usually unassertive upper echelons of society has caught the MQM brass and the rest of the country by surprise. Is the iron clad grip of MQM and Altaf Hussain on the citizens of Karachi finally starting to slip?