MQM and PTI: Humsafar Now, Humnawa in the Making

Posted on Posted inOpinion

Forming a common council of elders from both sides could be a starting point.

IRSHAD SALIM: Years back I had written that MQM and PTI are separated twins, and could develop into two sides of the same coin in Karachi and beyond. Their politics and polemics for survival have been by and large similar over the years on philosophical level, though on strategic and tactical levels they have been dabbling in numbers game, making them shift poles apart until the results got upended this time — MQM’s election losses have become PTI’s gains but the paradigm shift has in fact brought them closer to the same ideological plain they had ignored while trying to scuttle each other in the city.

The chicken has come home to roost now for their thought leaders while their workers may be undergoing denial phase, making them uneasy.

The vision and goals both espouse for the Pakistani society and their resultant narratives have been strikingly similar over the years but had remained muzzled by an ecosystem marred by cacophony. The vital signs for their survival in the city’s politics are same in magnitude and direction. When it would come down to essence and brass-tacks, the temperamental divide in ranks and files of both parties could keep appearing, unless maturity and statesmanship prevail on each side to harness the goodwill or the compulsions that brought the two together.

If democracy as a social behavior rather than just politics is considered post-polls, their grassroots differences have dwarfed and similarities have shown up. This could lead to both coming closer in months ahead — it is not just a numbers game favoring PTI to form government at the Center, as many consider.

The thought-process behind numbers transcends linear dimension of the alliance in Center and in Sindh — it could become holistic if the two parties’ leadership ying yang. Karachiites will then benefit the most and by extension, the country would get a much needed psychological uplift.

Given the city’s position as its economic powerhouse, the synergy of the alliance I would consider as byproduct. The city that used to set standards and lead by examples would make a comeback as a truly melting post from its decent into mosaic living and lifestyle.

That it could re-happen is what Karachiites are hoping for the most to begin with — both parties need to identify short-term and long-term spoilers at work and take mitigating steps at the soonest.

Forming a common council of elders from both sides could be a starting point. The socio-cultural-intellectual coming together of competing forces with identical views usually acts as a sponge to absorb myopic and micro aberrations in such initiatives.

In the election results the two parties past performances’ and battlecries have been heard and heightened — their similarities, strengths and weaknesses have created a common contour to operate in and exploit resources and political capital both have at hand.”A bird in hand is better than two on the bush” approach generated their Memorandum of Understanding signed last week.

For the first time on Karachi level, the MOU formally recognizes that these two are major players in the city and their common need to coexist  for the larger interest of the largest metropolis of the country with more than 20 million culturally diversified populatiion — the city’s issues are no longer political but has become humanitarian in form and substance. Ironically the city generates 95 of the revenue the province of Sindh uses and 65 percent of the federal revenue the province generates. Karachi can however generate more for the province and the country qualitatively and quantitatively. If not handicapped by series of speedbreakers and a mountain of “go slow curves ahead” signs dug in on its socio-economic highway over the “twilight years”, it could revitalize the nation and its youth bulge which are being targeted by the detractors as part of a hybrid war.

PTI having won more than 12 national assembly seats from the city and dozens in the provincial assembly has demonstrated it has found a cul-de-sac and could deliver on cooperative, inclusiveness basis. MQM has realized it after losing face and space. It therefore needs to provide PTI support if issues it has been harping on for decades are to be delivered to its constituencies — earlier it by and large failed having singularly tried and re-tried with PPP and PML-N.

The marriage has happened in good faith and without past bad blood  seeping in the deliberations — looking ahead and burying the past has driven them closer . That’s what I would call manifestation of positive social behavior in democracy as instrument of give-and-take for collective interest of a marginalized but “high potential” community which Karachi had become over 3 decades.

Given that the mega city’s community is a much bigger mixed bag now, all will benefit if the two parties can carve out a roadmap to make things happen despite traditional status quo hiccups and leg-pullings– those who are permanent residents and economic migrants from rural Sindh, Punjab, Balichistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Kashmiris, Gilgit Baltistanis, etc. need a smoother and wider stage to perform. The two’s tango can make it so happen and  therefore need saner elements to prevail, notwithstanding two major parties (PPP and PML-N) efforts to play down the “new normal”.

It is more than likely PPP would be a much vocal grim reaper in the scenario has developed between the two parties. Given Sindh being its stronghold it is logical but should not be at the cost of negativism — “in order for me to win I must make you lose” no matter what can no longer fly with PTI and MQM in the stable now.

Punjab-based PML-N could be the largest co-beneficiary in years ahead — economic migrants from Punjab have a huge presence in the mega city. They ought to maintain their positive stance while competing for the turf. They also have political capital invested in the city and Karachiites recognize it.

(The writer is a consultant, analyst, and Editor/Publisher of, and BE2C2 Report)

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