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EDITORIAL: Nothing brings old bickering allies together like a common new threat, or threats, and that, for all intents and purposes, seems to explain the attempt to make a broken MQM (Muttahida Qaumi Movement) whole again on January 12. But there’s simply too much to suggest that the glue that patched together MQM-P, Mustafa Kamal’s PSP (Pak Sarzameen Party) and Farooq Sattar’s breakaway group came not from Karachi but from far away Rawalpindi, which is very unfortunate and also raises questions about the long-term viability of this forced merger.

Surely, not everybody would have overcome the bitterness from the one-day failed MQM-PSP deal in 2017. And while there’s no doubt that the new strategy will go some way in regaining the party’s vote bank lost to PTI (Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf) and TLP (Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan), nobody’s yet willing to guarantee that the fragile egos of the three leaders that buried the hatchet the other day will not lead to yet another snap divorce somewhere down the road; and understandably so.

All things considered, how MQM, or any party for that matter, reorganizes or reorients itself is its own business. The ultimate objective is to do well at the polls, after all, and there is no legal bar on making or breaking political alliances. But the way it was trying to use its leverage with the PPP (Pakistan People’s Party) government in Sindh to delay local government polls in Karachi and Hyderabad was not just in very bad taste (MQM ultimately boycotted the January 15 local government polls), it was also directly contrary to the interests of those cities. There’s also something to be said about the way in which this so-called shotgun marriage was arranged. When pieces are moved across the political chessboard in this fashion every now and then, people will naturally take the establishment’s repeated promises of disassociating itself from the country’s politics with a pinch of salt. If the politicians as well as the people are not given a fair and clean playing field even now, when public trust in political institutions and representatives is at its lowest, then the only thing that can be guaranteed in the near future is more confusion and uncertainty. And that suits nobody except perhaps special interest groups bent upon keeping certain parties and entities from making more gains.

Let’s not forget that MQM also needs to work on its own credibility with the people. No doubt it lost some supporters to PTI’s and TLP’s rise, but it’s equally true that its own infighting also alienated a big chunk of its vote bank. Going forward, it needs to be careful not to employ the same old approach of trying to force its way in Sindh’s urban politics, like it used to when Altaf Hussain ran things.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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