Much has been written and uttered on Zulfiqar Mirza’s much trumpeted diatribe. Had it not been to the startling accusation made towards the very end of the press talk, that ofAmerica’s and MQM’s alleged plan for dismemberment ofPakistan, it certainly would not have received the rather unprecedented media airtime it drew. But perhaps this is why this accusation was purposedly inserted towards the very end for it to draw the maximum attention and not be buried under the burden of countless other accusations that Mirza made.
MQM is certainly not the biggest political party inPakistanyet it undoubtedly remains the most talked-about party, be that in the electronic media or, even more so, in the internet space across thousands of blogs and sites. And you would find such talk about MQM normally being a war of words between two extremes with little ground in between – one, diehard MQM fans and the other, sworn MQM abhorrers. What followed on the media following Mirza’s press talk was certainly a free-for-all, a field day, for the latter, who were tactfully ‘the’ targeted audience of Mirza and who certainly could not find a better moment to unleash their rather unqualified, impromptu and directed battering of the MQM. Such criticism seemingly overwhelmed by desires, seething personal dislikes and anger left much room for a non-partisan, dispassionate and rather independent viewpoint on the subject and this is what prompted me to write this piece.
One fears accusations for 1) the slander it can potentially make to reputation regardless of the truthfulness of the accusation or otherwise, 2) for the legal ramifications of it should the accusations be correct and 3) the factual and moral correctness of such accusation even if it does not carry any legal implications. While Mirza has been successful in tarnishing MQM’s reputation courtesy the immediate assistance he received in the media from his target’s abhorrers, my sole objective here is to analyze for substance, or lack of it, in Mirza’s accusations both from the perspective of its factual and moral correctness and its potential for a substantive legal threat to MQM.
Let us first situationalize Mirza’s most astounding accusation about alleged plans for dismemberment ofPakistan. That Mirza portrayed himself as the biggest adversary of the MQM and yet was entrusted with a purported top secret, by Altaf Hussain, as the biggest confidante, ahead of his own senior partymen, is a rather preposterous accusation. Mirza seems to have purposedly cited that Altaf Hussain made this revelation while he was alone from MQM’s side as otherwise any of other MQM men may have just come forward as witness and denied this. The only other person in this meeting, according to Mirza, is Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq, a crony and party colleague of Mirza who cannot be expected to be fatally disloyal and disrespecting to Mirza by denying this. Citing his position of holding the Quran on his head, while making this accusation, as a sufficient testimony of his truthfulness is yet another folly if one were to consider the innumerable lies, on oath, made by various complainants, witnesses and accused persons in far more imposing environment of courts (as against press club) on a daily basis. And let’s also not forget the folk wisdom: that a person who swears the most is usually the biggest liar and cheater.
Zulfiqar Mirza alleged that Altaf Hussain wrote a letter to British PM, Tony Blair, and has furnished a photocopy of such letter in support. Photocopies are not legally admissible so unless a certification as to the authenticity of this letter is availed from either the sender, Altaf Hussain, or the recipient, British PM’s office, or the courier, the document carries no legal implications. Additionally, the British High Commissioner also mentioned that he has no information on such a letter though of course he didn’t deny such letter having been written. More importantly, MQM has termed the letter as fake and different independent assessments point to discrepancies in the address and telephone number of MQM’sKarachioffice (90) at the top-left and top-right of the letter and the different-than-normal signatures of Altaf Hussain as evidences of the forgery of the letter. However, this accusation is certainly not as preposterous, or even slightly so, as the main controversial element of this letter, about MQM’s request for disbandment of ISI, is not very unlike MQM.
I will not be surprised to know that the MQM hates the ISI because the party is known for harboring various grievances, largely valid and justiceable (if ever the intelligence agencies in this country are held accountable), against the ISI, the more prominent amongst such grievances being the agency’s known role in creating Haqiqi (that caused much loss of men to MQM), its equally clandestine role in fabricating the Jinnahpur conspiracy, the different operations against the party almost throughout the 90s and lately the agency’s role in creating & patronizing anti-MQM proxy forces such as ANP and others and its alleged role of trying to pit every other political group, in IJI style, against the MQM in Karachi.
And MQM maybe the biggest sufferer of all, but the party is not alone when it comes to problems with the ISI. Even Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto have been critical of ISI and have blamed the agency for much that went wrong with their governments in the 90s and in fact the incumbent PPP government, ostensibly, with similar apprehensions unsuccessfully tried to bring the agency under civilian control (interior ministry). And also not long ago, the entire journalist community, including the abhorrers, was lined up in Islamabad with a pointed grievance against the agency for a heinous crime no less than the murder of journalist Saleem Shahzad (by the way, this current media frenzy around Karachi has taken all eyes off the Saleem Shahzad and OBL inquiries – not much to the chagrin of the agency). And the open secret about the agency’s role in supporting and creating the Taliban phenomenon much to the dislike of the secular-minded, which largely populate the rank and file of our ‘civil society’. And lastly, and very importantly, the agency’s file on Iftikhar Chaudhry and how the same was dishonored and ridiculed is no forgotten past either.
So if speaking against the ISI attracts prosecution for treason, as some people find MQM worthy of, for a yet unconfirmed letter, then let everyone, referred above, be ready to face similar consequences.
Another aspect of the letter much criticized is how the MQM is seeking a foreign country’s intervention inPakistan’s internal politics. While the tactical details as to what the party could do in support of the international community, as mentioned in the alleged letter, is admittedly both outlandish and amateurish however seeking intervention of the international establishment to strengthen one’s political fortunes is not exclusive to MQM. When BB spoke in theUSon how she would handover Abdul-Qadir Khan to theUS, everyone knew that she neither actually meant to do so nor would have the powers for it, even as the PM, but is merely trying to seek favors from theUSin her negotiations with President Musharraf. And when Nawaz Sharif went running to the White House to meet Bill Clinton and sought guarantees and requisite intervention that his government will not be toppled in an army coup, he obviously knew how important the role of these foreign countries, in happenings insidePakistan, is.
Seeking foreign intervention for one’s own domestic political interests is certainly not defendable (and is also condemnable) yet it would continue to be a practical and pragmatic reality that our politicians will play along with, as a counter-weight to the intervention of our domestic intelligence agencies, as long as the role of such domestic agencies is not done with and as long as our feudo-military alliance resists measures, such as broadening of the direct tax net to agriculture and audit of defense expenditures, that remain the key hurdle to self-sufficiency.
However, should this letter to the British PM from Altaf Hussain be real, it will also help clear MQM from some other haunting accusations that it is subject to. Everything that the party has sought, in its interest, in the letter, except for the point pertaining to ISI, is politically correct and well within the realms of the Pakistani constitution, federation and even the strictest moral standards. Demands such as provincial autonomy, equal representation in government, local policing, etc are certainly quite forthright and morally correct requests and yet more importantly the demand for inclusion of ethnic Sindhis in the police also puts aside all aspersions in regards to how the MQM is oblivious of the right of such Sindhis. In fact, it also establishes that the party does not have any aspirations for Sindh’s divisions or anything further or the same must have been stipulated in this alleged secret letter.
Lastly, Zulfiqar Mirza has linked MQM to target killing and hinted to be in possession of Joint Investigation Team (JIT) reports connecting MQM to various murders including that of the reporter, Wali Khan Babar. The JIT reports again do not carry any direct legal implication as 1) they are more of transcripts of confessions of the alleged killers as against investigative reports as also evident from the need, expressed by the JIT members, for the alleged killers to be investigated, challaned and prosecuted for the murders that they confessed to, 2) even if they are investigative reports, the same don’t qualify as convictions and their findings are subject to confirmation or otherwise from a trial court in form of a conviction or acquittal of the alleged killers; before such trial, no one can be categorized and concluded as a killer, 3) if the JIT reports are deemed truthful on the ground that agencies such as MI and ISI are also signatories to it then should we also deem the reports that these agencies gave in regards to CJ (at time of his removal from office by President Musharraf) as correct?, 4) what is the need for courts if findings of a JIT are conclusive enough to brandish anyone as a criminal even before he has chance of being tried by the relevant court of law, 5) what about previous JITs relating to murder of Hakim Saeed and other cases that later proved incorrect and fabricated and lastly 6) none of the alleged killers, that Mirza listed, have yet been prosecuted in a trial court as the apprehension is that the assumed coercion-based confessions of such alleged killers to the JIT and police will be negated by these alleged killers in their free-will statements in the trial court and this would then take away a key blackmailing chip from the armory of the PPP, vis-à-vis the MQM, as the MQM would then be able to cite such statements in the trial court to press the point of the innocence of the alleged killers and/or of their (alleged killers) having no connection with the MQM. As per settled principles of criminal law, statement of the accused given to the police are by default assumed to have been taken under coercion and the same is disregarded relative to the statement given by the accused in the trial court that is assumed to be free of coercion and as per the accused’s free-will.
The above is not meant to insinuate, in any way, that those investigated or interviewed by the JIT are innocent but is only meant to stress the need for these accused persons to be speedily prosecuted for us to know the real truth, as to their being guilty or otherwise, as deemed by the relevant court of law.