Eye on Pakistan

MQM success at the national level

Posted in Domestic Affairs by onpakistan on November 15, 2009

It would appear that MQM has taken a small but important step in its attempts to transform itself into a viable nationwide party: the gain of a seat in the recent Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly. From The News:

But the biggest surprise package of the 2009 GBLA election is the grand entry of the MQM. Out of nowhere, the MQM has become a major political force in Gilgit-Baltistan. The MQM is showing the hallmark of a party hungry for success outside its traditional hub of Karachi and Hyderabad. The MQM’s entry, first in the AJK legislature through two reserved seats for migrant Kashmiris and now in Gilgit-Baltistan, which is more of a mainstream arena as for the election is concerned, could be a sign of the party’s budding ambitions. Locally, the MQM gains are welcomed as a good antidote to the zero sum sectarian politics. The party has fielded 19 candidates compared to the PPP’s 23, the PML-N’s 15 and the PML-Q’s 14. Regardless of the number of seats the MQM would garner, which by the way is 2 to 4 seats at best and none at worst, the party is poised to become a major political actor in the long run.

The author concludes:

“Here, the MQM’s messages are striking the chord. They are talking about the constitutional rights of the people, the neglect, the denials, the right of representation in parliament, right to access Pakistan’s Supreme Court, Gilgit-Baltistan’s right to become Pakistan’s fifth province, seeking truth and equality — elements that are beyond the standard promises of development funds and politics of packages — hence it is evident that in the future the party which gets clear message across reflecting true feelings of the majority of constituents will eventually command majority in electoral politics of Gilgit-Baltistan as well. Hard sell, but that’s how politics works or does not work.”

Hyperbole, perhaps, given the MQM’s imminent entry into a coalition with the PPP in the GBLA (see this). Note that this article implies that MQM may have captured two seats, whereas other reports say one.

The following writer notes two possible explanations for the rise of MQM in Gilgit-Baltistan: migratory movement to and from Karachi, and federal government backing. The first is a possibility (though what he means, exactly, is unclear), the second also (though perhaps less so). Other socio-economic factors, including Shia-Sunni dynamics, could also plausibly have played a role.

There is some useful background information on Gilgit and Baltistan here.

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