Is this the MQM's battle for survival?

KARACHI: For the first time in three decades, what remains of the once-powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement will take part in the general elections without its founder, Altaf Hussain, calling the shots. The cracks visible among the party’s organisational structure have so far been evident and the party has faced severe internal and external constraints to give impetus to its election campaign.

In the wake of the crackdown against its workers, infighting and deflections over the past couple of years, the MQM, with an addendum of MQM-Pakistan, has been enduring its most challenging election season to date.

As a result, the party that prided itself on being able to shut down Karachi within minutes can hardly ensure a sizeable turnout at its rallies. On the surface, the party claims it has gotten past its internal politics. In reality, the situation is much worse.

What is even more shocking is that the party, once regarded as invincible in Karachi’s electoral fray, has failed to even find polling agents in many constituencies of the city, despite fervent efforts by its local leaders. According to sources, some of the more financially-stable candidates have even offered wages to people in exchange for the execution of duties as polling agents on election day. This is in stark contrast to the party that once had thousands of volunteers and workers at its beck and call.

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Equally shocking is the fact that the MQM-P has not even opened its campaign offices in several areas that were once its strongholds. Some of the few they have opened are located in Korangi, Azizabad, Orangi Town, Nazimabad, North Karachi, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Shah Faisal Colony, Malir, New Karachi, Balidia Town, Liaquatabad, Gulbahar Colony and Golimar, among other areas. In these areas, too, the number of offices remains far below the party’s baseline in previous elections. For the 2013 elections, the party had set up camps almost every 300 to 400 metres.

Independent observers say the party is desperately trying to salvage what it can in the upcoming elections, despite being severely crippled by the external circumstances and internal events of the last couple of years. The biggest blow, according to them, is the loss of the party’s organisational network at the neighbourhood level, which gave it an edge over all other parties for the last three decades.

The party’s convener, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, has on several occasions alleged that they are not being allowed to open their election offices, while their flags and banners are also being taken down, resulting in a no-show as far as electioneering is concerned.

Sattar reiterates demand to reopen MQM-P offices

He also said that efforts were being made to ensure an “artificial party” triumphs and labeled it pre-poll rigging adding that even the recent census and delimitations has worked against them, but they would still participate in the polls.

For his part, MQM stalwart Faisal Subzwari said that the lack of resources and the arrest of 13 party workers over the last 36 hours had been problematic for the party’s election campaign.

Even more than the arrests, however, sources said that the infighting within the party’s ranks had damaged its electoral chances. One thing that the party has been successful at is retaining its traditional symbol – the kite – which its leaders are hopeful would attract their traditional voter base.

Says Karachi needs a federal-level party for its development

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