Referring to the ‘recommendations’ of the security apparatus actively engaged in restoring normality to the city, the federal government led by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has communicated to the leadership of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) that its unit offices — sealed off or razed last year — could not be reopened as the party had lately demanded, it emerged on Friday.
More than 150 unit offices had been sealed off and dozens others dismantled last year after the controversial speech by MQM’s London-based leader Altaf Hussain on Aug 22.
The party has since split into two as Dr Farooq Sattar led its part based in the country by formally dissociating it from the leader in exile and suffixed the party’s name with Pakistan.
After a full year to the closure of the party’s headquarters in Azizabad and unit offices, the MQM leadership had requested the prime minister during his first visit to Karachi after taking the oath last month to reopen the party’s sealed offices and gift a substantial development package to the city.
Subsequently, PM Abbasi announced Rs25 billion package for the teeming city and told the MQM-P leadership that his government would mull over its other demands.
However, sources in the security apparatus working to restore normality to the city said their senior hierarchy opposed the possibility of reopening the MQM-P’s unit offices during a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Abbasi.
They said the issue had also been discussed at the apex committee during its meeting which echoed a similar standpoint as was discussed with the PM.
The sources told Dawn that while recommending against reopening of the unit offices of the MQM-P, which voted for Mr Abbasi in the election for the new prime minister after the court disqualified Nawaz Sharif in the Panama Papers case, the security agencies expressed their concern that it could encourage the city’s dominant party to augment its influence as it had done before.
Such influence meant the city could go again in the control of the MQM-P, said a senior official in the provincial home ministry.
Officials claimed that resumption of such unit offices could lead to collection of sacrificial hides during Eidul Azha for the party apart from generation of funds through the means ‘they applied in the past’, which the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) had choked during its operation to end years-long violence in the metropolis.
Besides, the sources said, the LEAs, during the meeting with the PM, pointed out that no other political party had such a network of unit offices, thus, the MQM-P should operate as other mainstream parties did.
It is learnt that the MQM-P leadership has been communicated on behalf of the prime minister that the party’s unit offices would remain closed as had been advised by the LEAs operating on the ground.
However, the federal government showed its ardour that it could help the city with even more resources in the future. Official figures show that a total of 196 ‘sector and unit’ offices of the MQM in the city were sealed off and razed. Those which had been razed were claimed to be constructed illegally on encroached land.
The MQM-P leadership, however, maintained that all its offices sealed off by the law enforcers were not constructed illegally, saying they were there for the past 30 years.