Guilty until proven innocent?

PPP and MQM are in the same boat in Sindh

Guilty until proven innocent?
Last year, Pakistan’s political parties gave extraordinary powers to the military to fight terrorism. Among them were the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). They made an attempt to make sure the noose wouldn’t find their necks.

But the MQM, dealing with allegations of violence, and the PPP, dealing with allegations of corruption, find themselves in a difficult situation. MQM chief Altaf Hussain’s speeches have been banned on the media, and their workers and leaders are being arrested. Unlike the past, this has happened without any disruption of daily life in Karachi. And despite accusing the Rangers of extrajudicial killings, MQM does not lodge an FIR or approach the courts on this count.

The People’s Party is ruling the province, but it seems that only means keeping the gutters clean and the streets swept. Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah wrote a letter to the Rangers director general, but no one bothered to respond to the chief executive of the province. The ruling party protested after the arrest of Dr Asim Hussain. It cried foul after Ali Muhammad Shah was sentenced by an accountability court. Its leadership believed General Musharraf was guilty of murdering Benazir Bhutto, but it could not touch him while he lived in a large bungalow just a few kilometers from Bilawal House.
No one bothered to respond to the chief executive of the province

A sources in federal government said interrogators pressed Dr Asim a lot to reveal whether his alleged nexus with terrorists had anything to do with the top leadership of the PPP. They believed Dr Asim did not fly solo. But nothing concrete has been found that could implicate former president Asif Zadari.

Federal authorities may not go after Zardari or any of his relatives, to avoid political chaos, said the source. But the rest of the party, including top leaders and his close friends, have no such immunity.

Both the People’s Party and the MQM are not being seen as “innocent until proven guilty.” The suspicions and allegations have crossed the red line. The general public is not accepting their explanations. The so-called media trial of these parties has also contributed to building public opinion against the two largest political parties of Sindh.

Recently, the MQM came up with a novel idea of converting into a charity or human rights organization. Before that, its MNAs resigned from the National Assembly. The resignations have not been accepted so far. Earlier this month, the Rangers killed four alleged target killers and claimed they were associated with the MQM. The MQM said the four men were peaceful party workers and had been missing for several months. The Karachi operation was initiated at MQM's request, but the party is being subjected to state oppression, said MNA Ali Raza Abidi. He criticized the Lahore High Court’s ban on the coverage of Altaf Husain’s speeches in the media, saying that was tantamount to depriving him of his fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression. He said the MQM would not give in to the pressure. Admitting that law and order had improved in Karachi as a result of the ongoing operation, he accused the federal government of targeting its political opponent. Abidi said courts must take note of the situation. A petition against the disappearance of MQM workers was pending before the courts, he said, but it was nearly impossible to lodge an FIR against security agencies.

Bilawal House spokesman Jameel Soomro said the space being lost by the political parties would be filled by anti-democracy forces. He dismissed all the allegations against the People’s Party leadership, accusing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of resorting to the politics of 1990s.

Some diehard fans of late Benazir Bhutto, who are still in the party, seem pleased by the way things are going. Nawabzada Ghazanfer, for example, lambasted the former president for destroying the party in a recent interview. He asserted that President Zardari knew of the corrupt practices of his ministers, but he let them operate for several reasons. He said PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari was a hostage, and the party would not revive until he began to think independently.

Shahzad Raza is an Islamabad-based journalist

Twitter: @OldPakistan_