KARACHI   -   The All Pakistan Muttahida Students Organization (APMSO)—that gave birth to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement—was established 41 years ago on the same day aimed at striving for the rights of ‘oppressed’ Muhajir community—that migrated from India to Pakistan.

A leaf from history

A 41-year ago, a handful of youngsters – some in their teens and others in twenties – were meeting at parks, roundabouts and other places of the city to devise a strategy to finalise the announcement of a student organisation aimed at addressing the issues of their community.

No one would have thought at the time that plans and strategy that these handful of youngsters were mulling over would lead to formation of a party that would become the fourth major political group of the country and most formidable force of the urban Sindh called Muhajir Quami Movement (later renamed as Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan).

“Meetings before official announcement of the APMSO were held at parks and other places as all of the initial members do not have better housing facilities,” said the Muhajir Ittehad Tehreek Chief Saleem Haider, who was amongst the co-founder of the student organization along with around 14 other members including Azeem Ahmed Tariq, Altaf Hussain, Zareen Majeed andA others.

Our most conclusive meeting was held at the roundabout in Azizabad- known as Liaquat Ali Khan Chowk or Mukka Chowk and then after initial meetings, the formal meeting to announce formation of the party was held at Karachi University IBA campus, he said. KU was later also declared party headquarters and most of the party initial office bearers including MQM founder living in London were chosen from KU to attract members from one of the biggest university of the metropolis and spread party message across the metropolis.

Divulging details of initial groundwork of the party, he said that since all party members belong to middle class background, they used to go door to door, shop to shop in parts of Saddar in afternoon to collect party funds and then distribute pamphlets in different areas of the city in pair of two in order to propagate their message.

During our campaigns, we found Afaq Ahmed – the MQM-H chief – in Landhi, Amir Khan-MQM-P deputy convener – who was at that time studying in class 9 in Lalukhet – now Liaquatabad, Aminul Haque at Jinnah College and several others who later remained at the helm of the MQM affairs.

What MQM achieved?

One of the founding members of the MQM Syed Aminul Haque who had established APMSO unit at Government Jinnah College in 1979, said his party gave identity to Muhajirs’.

When asked what the MQM have done for Muhajirs as it remained part of several coalition governments over the past three decades, he said Urdu-speaking Muhajirs are recognised as the fifth ethnic identity of the country along with Punjabi, Sindhi, Pakhtoon and Baloch which he termed the biggest achievement of the APMSO and the MQM.

“Just like other nationalities, Muhajirs also have their own culture and civilization and the same are accepted by others as well,” he added.

Haque reminded the APMSO was established for three major reasons— to make efforts for revoking of quota system, repatriation of Pakistanis who got stuck in Bangladesh after separation and to strive against discrimination of Urdu-speaking people. He said that his party had tried its best to revoke quota system but could not do so for the want of majority in the Sindh Assembly.

“But we have used our constitutional right of raising our voice in the assemblies, holding protest and press conferences on the issue,” said Haque. When asked about reason why the MQM did not revoke quota system when it was in the coalition governments especially from 2002 to 2007, he said the Pakistan People’s Party wanted to make ‘front’ and tried to exploit quota system issue for the sake of its political gain.

Post August 22, 2016

He said that the party faced worst of the situation post 22 August, after disassociating itself from MQM-P founder, and over 5500 activists were jailed, 200 went missing and a lot of activists refrained from attending party activities.

Haque, however said that due to their policy of non-violence that they adopted after it, the party remained intact and the figures of jailed and missing activists had also come down to 500 and 120 respectively.

He cited party’s big public gatherings in the city, result of local bodies and by-polls in the city during past six months in which they emerged as most successful as any other party and success of their deputy mayor candidate in municipal council with thumping majority as indications of party gaining its old foothold in Urban Sindh especially Karachi politics.

At the end of 2018, polls were held on 22 LB seats and MQM-P won nine to top all political parties, he said adding that the PS-94 Korangi by polls also proved where MQM-P emerged victorious with 22,000 votes while sureties of remaining candidates were forfeited.

“It was because polls were held independently as compare to general elections, where their polling agents were not given form-45 and forced out of polling stations,” he said.

With all these factors combined together, I am confident to claim that it reflects the true sentiment of the urban Sindh, said Haque while concluding.

What are future plans?

The MQM-P MNA said that they joined the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led federal government not for the sake of ministries or portfolios but for ‘Urban Development Package’.

“We have signed a memorandum of understanding with PTI and asked uplift package for Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and other Urban areas,” he added.  Haque said that on their demand, the Prime Minster Imran Khan had recently announced Rs 162 billion package for Karachi under which transport, water, sanitation and other schemes would be carried out.

Reunion of all like-minded Muhajir groups?

To a query if there are chances of any unity among the ranks of groups that was once part of MQM-P and raising voice for the issues faced by urban population of the province, he said that this city had witnessed bloody rivalries between political opponents but post 22 August, there is changed MQM. “We along with other like-minded parties have formed coordination at top level to avoid any conflicts,” he said.

He further said that there is no chance of MQM-P becoming part of any coalition as it was against the politics of the party since its founding, however, seat adjustment in future with other parties could not be set aside.