Military


Muttahida Quami Movement - MQM
Mohajir Qaumi Movement - MQM

The Muttahida (earlier, Muhajir) Qaumi Movement (MQM) claims to represent the Muhajirs (those who migrated from India after the partition, and their descendants). MQM has its biggest base in Karachi, the largest city in the country and the financial capital, where by one estimate the Muhajirs constitute about 60 percent of the population [reports of 90 percent are implausible]. The MQM has better been known for its leaders' lust of power than for their concern for the Muhajirs, who still find themselves somewhat rootless in their adopted country.

The Mohajir Qaumi Mahaz (sometimes written Muhajir, and Mahaz meaning "Movement," also abbreviated MQM), a party formed to represent the interests of the muhajir community in Pakistan. Founded by Altaf Hussain in 1984, the MQM had a meteoric rise in the political life of the country. The MQM had its origin in the All-Pakistan Muhajir Students Organization at Karachi University. At a large public meeting in Karachi in 1986, the MQM expressed the political and economic demands of the muhajir community. The MQM's political strength came primarily from the urban areas of Sindh, and its main emphasis was on securing better job opportunities for muhajirs. At the time, Mohajirs were advancing in business, the professions, and the bureaucracy, but many resented the quotas that helped ethnic Sindhis win university slots and civil service jobs. Known in English as the National Movement for Refugees, the MQM soon turned to extortion and other types of racketeering to raise cash. Using both violence and efficient organizing, the MQM became the dominant political party in Karachi and Hyderabad, another major city in Sindh.

Meanwhile, violence between the MQM and Sindhi groups routinely broke out in Karachi and other Sindh cities (AI 1 Feb 1996; Jane's 14 Feb 2003). The MQM played an active role in the ethnic riots in Karachi in the winter of 1986-87. These disturbances brought prominence and notoriety to the MQM and its leader, Altaf Hussain. It was after these riots that the MQM leadership converted the movement into a political party.

Just three years after its founding, the MQM came to power in these and other Sindh cities in local elections in 1987 (AI 1 Feb 1996; U.S. DOS Feb 1997, Feb 1999; HRW Dec 1997). The MQM's full political weight was first felt in the 1988 elections. MQM won thirteen (out of 207) seats in the National Assembly in the 1988 elections, making it the third largest party in the assembly after the PPP and the IJI. MQM support of the PPP made it possible for Benazir Bhutto to form a government and become prime minister. MQM joined a coalition government at the national level headed by Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which took power in elections following the death of military leader General Zia ul-Haq. This marked the first of several times in the 1980s and 1990s that the MQM joined coalition governments in Islamabad or in Sindh province. Shortly after the election, however, the coalition between the PPP and the MQM broke down, and the two parties' subsequently troubled relations contributed greatly to the instability of Bhutto's first government.

In the 1990 general elections, the MQM won fifteen seats in the National Assembly, remaining the third largest party. The MQM boycotted the 1993 National Assembly elections but won twenty-seven seats in the provincial assembly of Sindh.

MQM chief Altaf Hussein led the party from exile in London since 1992, when he fled Karachi ahead of military operations against the MQM. He had since been accused of involvement in several violent plots, including the kidnaping of an army major, but was never convicted.

The Pakistan Muslim League (PML) led government of Nawaz Sharif was elected in February 1997, and consolidated its grip on power by gaining a majority in the upper house as a result of the Senate elections in March 1997. It secured 23 of the 49 seats available in the Senate Elections, bringing the PML(N) strength in the Senate to 30 out of 87, and with the support of its allies - the Awami National Party (ANP), the Muttahidda Quami Movement (Altaf Faction) (MQM(A)) -- led by Altaf Hussain -- and the Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan (TJP), it controlled a majority of 44 seats. The ANP and the MQM subsequently departed from the coalition. To further the program of national development and a nation-wide campaign against feudal domination, the Mohajir Quami Movement was formally transformed into the Muttahida Quami Movement on 26 July 1997.

The ruling PML(N)'s troubled alliance with the MQM(A) in Sindh province finally ruptured during October 1998. Without the MQM(A), the PML(N) no longer had the numbers to govern in the Sindh province, leaving a clear path for the opposition Pakistan People's Party of Benazir Bhutto to join with the MQM(A) to form a majority in the Sindh assembly. The mounting pressure of a failed alliance and possible loss of government in Sindh, plus the increased violence, led Nawaz Sharif, on 30 October 1998 to impose Governor's rule.

MQM leader Altaf Hussain was lying low and aiming to become a potential "king-maker" in the possibly hung parliament after the 2002 elections. In any case, PML-Q was predicted to at best win a thin majority, after which it would require accommodation with the MQM as the traditional third-largest bloc in the National Assembly. Its leaders were concentrating on their ethnic constituencies and are determined to win big now that the incursions made by PML-N in the last election had been virtually forgotten. The MQM was apparently amenable to arm-twisting by the administration because of the involvement of its cadres in the worsening law-and-order situation in Karachi and other cities of Sindh, which it sought to ward off by making deals at the highest levels. The ethnic vote it commanded was unaffected by fluctuating political fortunes.

As of late 2003, led by its founder and leader Mr Altaf Hussain, MQM was the third largest political party of Pakistan and the second largest political party in the southern province of Sindh.

In the leadup to the 2008 elections the MQM was described as a key parliamentary ally of the Musharraf-friendly PML-Q, and that the MQM appeared to take sides in a showdown between supporters and opponents of ousted Chief Justice Chaudhry, who tried to visit Karachi in May 2007. Its cadres were involved in Karachi street battles with opposition activists that left at least 40 people dead on 12 May 2007, most of them PPP members. Reports had local police and security forces standing by without intervening while the MQM attacked anti-Musharraf protesters, leading many observers to charge the government with complicity in the bloody rioting. MQM leaders denied that party activists had been involved in malicious acts.

MQM chief Altaf Hussein was an early and vocal sympathizer with the United States following September 2001 terrorist attacks there.




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