Sunday, August 21, 2011

Using the Godfather way

People often question why the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) has so much support in Karachi and not other parties. (And I'm not a supporter of any party - a disclaimer was necessary here) MQM was not always there, rather it was the mullah party and the feudal party who had Karachi in their clutches after the capital was shifted to Islamabad. The city was divided between the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) with some smaller parties until 1987 when MQM swept Karachi and Hyderabad in the local body elections. However, it did not happen overnight or because the Urdu speaking suddenly wanted to support MQM for its linguistic and ethnic origins.

There is a documentary about the Medici made by PBS. It describes how from being mere bankers the Medici gained support from the people. By doing favors. Or I guess it can even be called the Godfather way. They did favors for people regardless of their social standing and in return gained their loyalty.

This is what the MQM does in Karachi. They do things like getting the electricity bill fixed for Muhammad Liaquat, which was screwed by the KESC; or one of the sector boys takes care of the weekly grocery shopping of a few women in the 'mohalla'; and some goon beats up the guy who teased Farrukh's sister on the street. These things enabled the MQM to get more and more support from the public. Another reason they get more support is that they do not have feudal lords in the upper echelons of the party. Rather they have doctors, engineers etc.

To increase their support, finances and vote bank, the ANP desperately needs more land in Karachi. Why the ANP needs land? That is the only way they will be able to generate more funds and more votes for themselves to stay around, following the MQM lead on getting to the public directly. I remember my Pakhtun taxi driver who always said that although he is not in ANP directly, if anybody in his 'abadi' has a problem, they go to the local sector to get it fixed. Hence the land mafia of any particular party is a goodwill and recruiting office. Less land for any party means, less funds and less voters. The tragedy for ANP is, it came to Karachi at a point when most land is already occupied or built.

PPP on the other hand screwed up its vote bank, which was mostly in Lyari and the suburbs of Karachi. They failed the people by not doing enough and are now fighting tooth and nail to get it back. In all this mayhem, the only people silently going about their business, and getting more support, are the bloody mullahs. One gets to see an increasing number of zombies in black abayas and more and more men with pants above their ankles in Karachi.

If only the sparring parties would take this as a hint and stop indulging in the urban warfare, Karachi may still have hope.


  1. In the first scene of The Godfather a man is asking Don Corleone for 'justice', because he didn't get that through the court. Be it bureaucracy or corruption, when the government disappoints people, or proves to be ineffectual, they look for an alternative system. In Pakistan there are too many alternative systems, MQM, ANP, feudal lords; too many states within a state, none of them compatible with each other, none of them based on humanistic moral values.

  2. Yes, there definitely is a vacuum due to government inefficiency. But governments are made by the same people who privately help the public. Feudal lords win elections by distributing bags or grain in their constituency, among the people who toiled on their land. The only people who in people's opinion are not in government are the mullah. Who are trying to fill the gap with charity and volunteer work.