Articles of the year 2009

The Battle for the Middle Class
Published on September 12, 2009

The leader of the MQM was interviewed on a private television channel, and his views were eye-openers in this age of the supremacy of Islamic fundamentalists at the cost of all other beliefs. He expressed his belief that all beings were equal in the eyes of God, of all religions, and discrimination was abhorrent, to the Almighty. Indeed discrimination was a creation of those who were interested in exploiting the religion to gain political power.

Undoubtedly the discipline of the MQM has become their hallmark, and their success as a party. The party derives its strength from, the middle classes of Karachi, who are emancipated already, and have no serfdom mindset, so carry no fear of the feudal. This goes a long way to explain the 'urban' popularity of the MQM for the only other Urban Party was the Jamaat-i-Islami that has been badly routed in the last 10 years from the urban areas of Sindh. Religion in Pakistan never gathered more than 5 percent of the votes, even with the massive support of the 'agencies'. The PPP suffers the same feudal stigma, and this also accounts for its poor showing in the urban areas. In the rural areas, the PPP is still controlled by the feudals, and the success is evident as the feudal/baradari system is prevalent.

In the Punjab, the voter is still tied to the baradari system, but is educated, and independent of the feudal ties. He would like an alternative to the feudal parties on offer. For the PML-N and the PML-Q smack more of feudalism, than of any democratic equality. And the Punjabi would welcome equality, for he fought for his independence not just from the British, but from Hindu domination. In 1947 he was granted freedom, but not equality, he remained a serf for the feudals who never let go not even till now.

With Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, he got empty slogans, for his valuable vote, and nothing else.

The MQM has seen this opportunity, but is still not in a position to plunge in. However it is planning its moves very carefully, and should perhaps take a few of the politicians of the old school that are still around. The Dr Mubashirs, the writers, the poets, of whom there are many in Punjab, in fact the huge number is prevalent in and around Lahore. They have a fantastic command of high Urdu, and this would be their basis of communication. This must never be confused with separatism, as was a charge against the MQM in the earliest days.

The success of the MQM in Sindh, could be a strong example to the middle classes of the Punjab, as they would be more in communication with their class counterparts from Karachi.

In the meantime the MQM has a golden opportunity to benefit from the lack of governance prevailing in Islamabad, and from the daily revelations of corruption scandals - sugar, flour, electricity - being bandied about. While the MQM may not be directly involved, they do share the guilt by being coalition partners. And as such it is their duty to bring their majority counterparts in the coalition into the legal framework. The MQM cannot possibly take the stance that they are powerless to act. This would detract from their image of a successful and honest political force. In Karachi their shining example is Mustafa Kamal the Nazim of Karachi, so the efficacious ability is already well known. It is time that the MQM exercise their power, and achieves positive results. The whole of Punjab is watching, and the youth of Pakistan would like to see success, for they have had enough empty promises.

The time has come for the MQM to deliver on the national scale.