Penetrating Punjab?

In a ‘mammoth’ rally in the heart of Punjab, the MQM apparently seems to be looking towards making some significant inroads into the province. However, the congregated cacophony and shrill telephone calls do nothing to hide the fact that, no matter what the Karachi-based party claims, moving in on Punjab turf will still be a long time coming for the MQM.It is estimated that the rally, which took place in the football ground opposite Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, played host to some 10,000 MQM supporters. Now this may appear to be a significantly large number but when one considers that these people were from all over the country, the numbers that turned up seem rather diminished and less than encouraging. There are reports that this rally was one of the most expensive ones to hit the political scene, a claim that is probably not without merit as many are calling it a “rental rally” – transporting MQM supporters into Punjab from Karachi and other cities of Sindh. In a democracy, every political party and every individual has a right to partake of political activity anywhere in the country. But it is still worth asking just how the MQM believes it will turn Punjab’s and the nation’s situation around.

During his telephonic address, party chief Altaf Hussain once again reiterated his love for ‘revolution’ (although sceptics doubt what exactly he understands or means by that term). Citing an 18-point agenda where he promised the abolition of the feudal system and capitalism, along with the economic woes of the masses and even issues such as honour killings and watta satta, he held some sway over his ‘captive’ audience. However, Mr Hussain failed to mention how he would solve all the problems addressed in his 18-point framework. It is all very well to talk about obliterating ills but by not detailing how he would change the system for the better, the rally did not deviate from the usual rhetoric that is far removed from the ground realities – a useful tactic for the purposes of a rally but not much else. MQM leader Farooq Sattar has been quick to point out in a follow up to the rally that the MQM only wants a “peaceful” revolution. That implies that if one has to wait for the MQM to obtain a two-thirds majority in parliament for such an agenda to take effect, the party will have an uphill task ahead. For the moment, just to get its foot in the Punjab door is proving a tougher nut to crack than the party high command may have envisaged.

The MQM has taken offence at the last-minute change of venue to the football ground instead of the stadium but in this day and age of mind-numbing terrorism, the party ought to be thankful for small mercies that the rally passed off peacefully and without incident.With the MQM attempting to make inroads into Punjab, the PML-N ought to start taking note. So far, the MQM may not have much of a foothold here but if poor governance and shoddy civil and economic policies continue to rule the Punjab roost, low rally attendance can bloat into a more significant Punjab-based vote bank for the party that is looking to unite Karachi and Punjab on its underlying ideology of “Pakistaniat”. There is much room for improvement; let us see it emerge from within the present ruling circles of Punjab instead of it being transported here. – Dailytimes