Altaf bhai’s stellar performance

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain addressed a press conference from London via Skype on Friday. Mr Hussain’s press conference lasted for almost three hours, after which there was a question and answer session. It would not be wrong to call it a stellar performance by the MQM supremo. From flying kisses to singing and dancing, Altaf Hussain kept his audience ‘entertained’. Mr Hussain claimed he would make some earth-shattering revelations, as he was not sure if he would be alive to address another press conference. In the end, he failed to reveal anything. What Mr Hussain provided as ‘proof’ of some international conspiracy to break up Pakistan was nothing but a hackneyed map that has been doing the rounds on the internet for several years now apart from some articles, analyses and books by western writers. The only thing that was clear by the end of Mr Hussain’s press conference was that it was an attempt to refurbish his so-called patriotic credentials in the light of Dr Zulfiqar Mirza’s allegations against him and his party. The military and the ISI were praised in good measure by Mr Hussain, who offered MQM workers to be at their disposal in order to defend Pakistan and said, “There would have been no superpower (that could disintegrate Pakistan) had the army, the ISI and the MQM got united.”

It is no secret that the Awami National Party (ANP) is seen as the MQM’s nemesis in Karachi. Altaf Hussain alleged that ANP chief Asfandyar Wali Khan was given millions of dollars by the US for the 2008 general elections but he failed to provide any proof to support this allegation. The ANP denied these charges. ANP leader Afrasiab Khattak even went so far as to say that “nobody has killed more Pashtuns than the MQM”. Mr Hussain also laid the blame of the May 12, 2007, violence at others’ doorstep by saying that the MQM had nothing to do with it.

The sorriest outcome of Mr Hussain’s press conference was the departure of renowned Pakistani journalist Nusrat Javeed from the private TV channel on which he hosted a current affairs programme. Mr Javeed’s programme was taken off the air soon after it started on Friday. Mr Javeed told a private news channel that he was sacked by the channel at the behest of the MQM. Both the channel and the MQM denied these charges. A man of Mr Javeed’s stature does not need to score points by making such claims; he is one of Pakistan’s best known and credible journalists. In recent months, the MQM has come down hard on the media, especially anchorpersons. The journalist community must condemn the show of power by the MQM, or any other political party for that matter, to silence critical voices in the media. This practice has to stop once and for all. The media must stand united against such shameful pressure tactics.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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