Fond farewell, and more - S Khalid Husain - Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, the outgoing Sindh home minister, says that extortion and targeted killings will end in Karachi after he leaves, as these were “orchestrated” for his removal from the home ministry. If he is right, the city will bid him a fond farewell, like it would anyone who was a bane.

Also bidding a fond goodbye to the minister, hoping that they are seeing his back at last, would be residents of the Defence Housing Authority. He has created chaos their lives, with what seems like half the security apparatus of the city positioned outside his residence. The other half is stationed at Bilawal House in Karachi, providing the kind of security to both residences that is probably tighter than the security of the country’s nuclear assets.

It is strange that the home minister should whine that he is being hounded out with “orchestrated” happenings, although he was himself in charge of controlling the situation. Extortionists and those engaged in targeted killings, criminals whom he was supposed to bring to book, have prevailed, and it is he who has to leave, rather than their going to jail. If that is the case, what exactly has the minister achieved in the three years he has been in office, besides enjoying the perks of his ministerial position?

The chief minister of Sindh has assumed charge of the home ministry. As chief executive of the province he was always in charge, even with the home minister in office. So was the prime minister, as chief executive of the country. And the president, who is also co-chairman of the PPP, and who is known to micromanage the country, calling the shots in whatever passes for governance in Sindh and in the country. Where were these worthies when Zulfiqar Al Mirza was making a mess of law and order in Karachi? Maintenance of law and order is something which is the prime duty of any government.

Zulfiqar Ali Mirza has given Farooq Sattar of the MQM the label of “liar,” and hinted that the MQM rally in Lahore was financed with “donations” collected by the MQM in Karachi. He has asked journalists “not to take seriously” the statements of Interior Minister Rahman Malik, and declared that Pir Mazahrul Haq, the parliamentary leader of the PPP in the Sindh Assembly, “doesn’t know what he is saying.” The prime minister has weakly made up to MQM by saying that “Zulfiqar Mirza’s views of the MQM are his own.”

No one holding his or her own views in the PPP has escaped banishment to the boondocks. Interestingly, for holding his own views, Zulfiqar Mirza is being tipped for the Senate, or an important position in the centre. This is as good a Viennese Waltz danced around the MQM by the PPP as one would see outside Vienna.

Zulfiqar Mirza’s dexterity in playing the “Sindh card,” and his utterance of vitriol against settlers of all shades and hues in Sindh, have been well used by the PPP to instil a measure of healthy respect for the among the principal political players in urban Sindh, who are mostly Urdu-speaking Sindhis, or the MQM. The dance was choreographed by the president, of that there is little doubt. The inimitable signs of presidential choreography appear in every whirl and swirl.

All the above is not to say that in gaining healthy respect for itself with the MQM, through the dance almost flawlessly executed by Zulfiqar Mirza, the PPP does not have the same respect for the MQM. The difference now is that no one party has an exaggerated sense of its primacy, or of the other’s vulnerability, in urban Sindh.

Where a new sense of unease must now prevail, however, is in the top PPP ranks. The president is known for not only standing by his friends but generously rewarding those who have done him a service. The latest yeoman’s service rendered is by Zulfiqar Mirza, and he is an ambitious man, as ambitious as the president is generous. If he is given a seat in the Senate, while his wife sits on a high rostrum to preside over the National Assembly proceedings as its speaker, Zulfiqar Mirza’s feeling a bit queasy sitting on the benches in the Senate would be natural.

As for an important slot in the centre, it could also be looking after the interior of the country, not just of Sindh. If there is at present an element of unease with some, in the Senate and elsewhere in the power complex as it is set up at present, the reason is Zulfiqar Ali Mirza.

The writer is a former corporate executive. Email:

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