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MQM..the way I see it

This might stir up a hornet’s nest and could label me as a die-hard MQM supporter but before I begin, here’s the disclaimer:

  • I am not a worker of MQM,
  • I have no stakes in the party,
  • I’m not writing this under any sort of duress.
  • I don’t expect any extra favors from the party.
  • This piece is a reflection of my personal observation and the party has no contribution to it.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement has always been a misunderstood, underrated and oppressed political entity. Whenever it was given a chance to serve the urban centers of Sindh, it has delivered and been acknowledged the world over. It boasts of the highest number of educated middle class amongst its cadres and is probably the only political party that discourages nepotism and VIP culture.

My first experience of witnessing the functioning of this party was 4 years ago when I visited their head quarters, the 90, fondly known as “markaz”. We were a team of bloggers and writers who were invited over for iftar by the media management wing of the MQM. What I saw there was absolute discipline. Everyone seemed to know their job descriptions quite well and did not cross their individual domains of responsibility. At the security check post I was politely asked by one of their workers to identify myself and present the reason for my visit.

One of the workers helped me in finding a parking spot and I was led to the famous tiny house called “90”. There was a room to my left where I could see their media wing team busy with preparing eid cards to be sent to all the political parties, notables and embassies in Pakistan. We were lead to their media analysis cell where they had a team of analysts taking notes and preparing strategies while watching news pouring in from different TV channels and relaying on close to a dozen monitors installed in that room. We were then asked to join them for iftar outside on the street.

What I witnessed there was something unheard of and a completely different experience for me. There was a long table right in the middle of the street, the iftar buffet was very simple and served in steel plates and bowls. There was absolutely nothing fancy on the menu. Their main stream leadership namely Dr Farooq Sattar, Haider Abbas Rizvi, Mustafa Kamal, Raza Haroon etc were mingling with their ordinary workers and neighbors. The leadership and ordinary workers ate on the same table, the same food, sat on the same pavements and used the same class of cutlery.

There was no segregation of any sort based on rank and profile and the only chair I saw was occupied by one of their ageing senior leaders. Later on we were shown different departments and offices of the MQM where party workers were busy with their routine work. Second most unconventional observation was their public complaint cell.

I saw this room on my way out where I could spot Faisal Sabzwari and Haider Abbas Rizvi interacting with common citizens, listening to their problems and taking action accordingly. I saw this lady scolding one of the MQM MNAs over a delay in getting some sewage related work near her house. The MNA responded politely and assured the lady that the work will be done the same day. This guy at the reception showed me a duty register which clearly mentions the name of MNAs and MPAs who are supposed to be present daily to listen to public complaints and timely resolution of their issues.

The problems range from property disputes to utility bills and even family issues. I was also told that strict action is taken if any of their legislatures fail to turn up on their scheduled day. Anyone who feels ignored or unattended at 90 can call up at the MQM London secretariat helpline numbers, lodge a complaint and witness timely accountability. This is very rare and at least I haven’t seen such discipline, hierarchy and chain of command anywhere in any of the political parties or government run organizations within Pakistan.

Regardless of the political blunders that the party has committed over the years or a public perception of violence that has marred the growth of MQM, this political force needs to be given a chance to prove its competence, vision and hard work and that can only be made possible by holding the Local Bodies elections. They did it twice in the past and they can do wonders in future, provided they have the authority, time frame and necessary resources to work with.

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