MQM’s RAW nerve: How hard can Pakistan press
For India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), being accused of harnessing assets inside Pakistan can be anything but embarrassing. Delhi normally pays a deaf ear whenever a whistle is blown but it made an exception on June 25, 2015, when a BBC documentary alleged that RAW was babysitting the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
“The report on India training MQM members is completely baseless,” stated Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup. In London, the Indian high commissioner took a swipe at Pakistan instead of the British news channel, “Shortcomings of governance cannot be rationalised by blaming neighbours.” Not only were India’s premier sleuths enraged by this, but Altaf Hussain was angry too. The MQM chief wasn’t diplomatic at all; his telephonic sermons spilled poison, which were covered live on Pakistani cable news channels.
Rewind to the 1990s, the snowballing political problems in Karachi reached a climax when Sindh Police opened fire on a Muhajir locale in Hyderabad city. The ensuing violence factored in dismissal of Benazir Bhutto-led Peoples’ Party government. Come Nawaz government, the MQM (then called Muhajir Qaumi Movement) split into two – one led by Altaf and the other by Afaq Ahmed – for the party had grown stronger than a mafia. The infighting spelled terror and spilled blood on the streets of Karachi day and night. In 1992, Brigadier Imtiaz led a flawed ‘Operation Clean-up’ with Pakistan Rangers, leaving a bruised MQM playing victim. Altaf Hussain’s clique was desperate for revenge. He himself had sought asylum in England.
Meanwhile, India was furious for armed resistance peaked in occupied Jammu & Kashmir as the breakup of Soviet Union had raised the hopes of Kashmiris and their sympathisers. Hawks openly proposed to the government to settle K or K, that is, Karachi for Kashmir. Meanwhile, Nawaz government was dismissed and replaced by Benazir Bhutto’s who renamed the incomplete Karachi campaign as Operation Blue Fox in 1993. General Naseerullah Babar oversaw the proceedings. With Jinnahpur controversy – a plan to have the city of Karachi break away from Pakistan – at its peak, the people of urban Sindh withstood the bloodiest period in history of the city.
Between 2006-2007 activist/leader Imran Khan had campaigned rigorously to collect proof of MQM and Altaf Hussain’s involvement in illegal actions. The PTI chief received boxes full of documents, videos and photos of the party’s alleged felonious deeds. He left for a much-trumpeted London visit to deliver the evidence to the metropolitan police to try Altaf under anti-terrorism legislation that was enacted to allow prosecution of British citizens who organise or incite violence abroad. However, Imran Khan, the politician of today, has not raised the issue since the 2011 election campaign.
As of March 9, the interior ministry has assigned Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to hold an inquiry into the reports and allegations of MQM receiving RAW funding and other support to destabilise the metropolis. India is extremely unlikely to issue a formal denial of the alleged role of its premier agency. Already Indian PM’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar have abundantly spelled out the BJP-led government’s policy towards Pakistan. Ajit Doval said, “India would like to have an effective deterrent to deal with terrorism. If you do one Mumbai [26/11] you may lose Balochistan.” And Parrikar in a television interview added, “You have to neutralise terrorist through terrorist only.”
The issue of MQM’s allegedly clandestine activities was high on the agenda for UK during just concluded visit of British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. The most telling was Hammond’s meeting with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ahmad in which both agreed to overcome shared challenges and forging a robust partnership in the area of counter-terrorism, organised crimes.
Ever since the murder of Imran Farooq in London, Islamabad has been taking up the matter of a British citizen using the kingdom’s soil to provoke bloodshed in Pakistan. The two countries are already working closely to resolve the homicide mystery. There’s a precedence of the New Scotland Yard sharing details with its counterparts here and more is set to happen.
Moreover, two documents are available in the public domain ie a record of a police interview with MQM’s Tariq Mir, and the other of Sarfraz Anwar Merchant. Both claim the party’s deep ties with India. Add to that the evidence collected by Rangers in various raids, including the ones in Azizabad. Zulfiqar Mirza, Sault Mirza and now Mustafa Kamal along with his mates have further muddied the waters for Altaf’s blokes.
The bottom line is, whether India admits or denies its role or the UK teams up or otherwise, the Nawaz government has no dearth of proof for a fair judicial probe.
Naveed Ahmad is a Pakistani investigative journalist and academic with extensive reporting experience in the Middle East and North Africa. He is based in Doha and Istanbul.