The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has always been a party that put stock in symbolic gestures and dramatic episodes, and no one is as dramatic as the chief himself. After MQM agitation in Karachi following the death of a party member, Sohail Ahmed on Thursday, Altaf Hussain announced that he is severing all ties with his party. He begged for the nation’s forgiveness, fired off unsubstantiated accusations at the ISI and Chief Minister Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, and gravely announced that tomorrow would be his last address to the people. An educated guess can be made as to what is to follow; his party is to beseech him to stay, for without him they are lost, and he, like a martyr, is going to nobly accept. This exact pattern has been repeated numerous times, and in all likelihood, will be repeated again.

MQM’s grievance is real, an extrajudicial killing of a Pakistani citizen is a serious matter, as is the claim that this is being done in a systematic manner. This matter must be investigated. Yet from the start of this episode to its supposedly imminent end, it seems it has been about all but Sohail Ahmed. MQM’s worker’s activities have often been in the legal spotlight; they have murdered and been implicated in murder. Why this particular incident sparked such an outcry is unknown. MQM’s subsequent actions have been populist and sensational. The body was dragged away to the CM house, where the workers waited for hours demanding justice. MQM lawmakers in the Sindh assembly staged a walkout after chanting slogans during the CM speech. Parts of Karachi where shut by an MQM enforced lockdown. It is questionable how any of these actions will ensure that the killers of Sohail Ahmed are caught. These suspicions seem substantiated to an extent when all this is followed by Altaf Hussain’s announcement of him leaving MQM; which has always been used as a tool to bring MQM back into the national headlines, revitalize the support and sprout political statements.

It seems MQM is trying to fill the vacuum left in the nation’s political narrative following the end of the Imran-Qadri sit-ins; which had eclipsed all other dialogues when they were in full flow. Through such carefully choreographed actions, MQM will draw some attention towards Sohail Ahmed’s murder, but largely MQM is treating it as a moment to gain political traction. This pattern is becoming recognizable, and will eventually become ineffective. At least that is the hope.