Dr Farooq Sattar is the Deputy Convener of the Muthaidda Qaumi Movement, the third largest political Party in Pakistan with a large support base in the country’s largest city Karachi. He is a doctor by profession but gave up his medical career to serve the people of Pakistan and most particularly Sindh with its stronghold in urban areas of Sindh like Karachi and Hyderabad.
An outspoken and flamboyant personality, Dr Sattar can be best be described as the pilot of the MQM or driving force steering the party ahead in an intelligent and organised manner to move things forward under the guidelines of the party leader Altaf Hussain who is in self imposed exile in London.
In an exclusive interview with a panel of The Capital Post, Dr Sattar spoke passionately and in a fiery spirit about the party’s policies , its goals and the vision of its founding father, Quaid-e-Tehrik Altaf Hussain.
TCP: Would you please tell me about your personal background ?
FS:I was born in Karachi and I did my schooling from BVS Parsi School and then I got selected for Sindh Medical College to become a graduate in medicine and surgery. I graduated from SMC in 1986. I wanted to do my post graduation in plastic surgery but ended up in politics.
TCP: You are a medical doctor by profession which is a very noble profession. What motivated you to join politics?
FS: I was associated with the All Pakistan Mohajirs Students Organisation (APMSO) the student wing of the Mohajir Quami Movement (MQM) as far back as 1979. After that I did not look back. The APMSO formed a Medical Aid Committee and after graduation I joined this committee and became its incharge. That was the turning point for me to either choose a career in plastic surgery or continue to serve the people and struggle for the elimination of discrimination and injustice that was being meted out to the common people of Pakistan especially the feeling that we had in the urban areas of Pakistan particularly in Karachi.
TCP: When did the MQM really establish itself ?
FS: The MQM was growing into a large scale party in the eighties but it was on 08 August 1986 actually that a massive rally was held at Nishtar Park, our first ever rally, after which the MQM got its due recognition . That was the turning point for the MQM. This was the culmination of eight years of hard work in the different localities of Karachi and Hyderabad.
TCP: When did the MQM contest its first elections?
FS: We contested the first ever 1987 Local Bodies Elections and it was a landslide, a sweeping victory and we captured more than 66 per cent of seats by virtue of which I was elected Mayor of Karachi unopposed and Aftab Ahmad Sheikh the Mayor of Hyderabad. That was our first exposure to public office and I have this honour from my party of holding the highest public office in Karachi. I became Mayor of Karachi in January 1988. Four years down the road when I stepped down as Mayor we had built a track record of serving the the people indiscriminately.
TCP: Initially it was perceived that the MQM represented the Urdu speaking people of Karachi and Hyderabad only. Your comments.
FS: After being in office for four years the MQM started making a dent in other communities in Karachi. It was at first a regional and ethnic based party struggling for the rights of those who were being discrimimated on the basis of ethnicity especially those whose forefathers had migrated from India after partition. It was after having served the people of Hyderabad and Karachi under the MQM Mayorship without any discrimination that we started winnning the hearts of other communities, Punjabis Sindhis and Pushtuns. Initially it was difficult to convince the other communities that while we were at that time a regional based party we were struggling for our rights but in no way were we against other communities. We were simply against the system and policies of Islamabad based Establishment and the provinces. They were following a policy of divide and rule which we strongly opposed. In the 1990 elections we won seats in the Senate and two seats from areas in Karachi dominated by other communities. Then we realized that we should open our doors to other communities, the undepriviliged and disadvantaged lower middle class in a party which was a liberal and progressive force moving forward. It was then that in 1991 at the peak of our popularity Altaf Bhai decided to change the name to Muthaidda Quami Movement but when we were to announce the new name of the Party on Aug 14, 1992 the powers that be never accepted it and launched a massive operation against us.
TCP: Serious incidents of violence forced the Karachi operation. Could you comment on that?
FS: The MQM was a rising political force and growing in popularity throughout Pakistan as could be gauged from the election results of 88 and 90. We were making inroads into other communities but it was not acceptable to the establishment and the powers that be and as we had decided to formally announce the new name of the party on August 14, 1992 there was a brutal and repressive crackdown on the MQM resulting in 15000 extra judicial deaths of MQM activists including ordinary citizens of Pakistan , massive incarceration of MQM workers, third degree torture and every imaginable form of persecution.
TCP: The MQM has not been able to make inroads in Punjab, the bastion of political power in Pakistan. Why?
FS: The crackdown continued till 1999 and when we were successful in the 1997 elections we were able to change the name to Muthaidda Quami Movement on 26July 1997. Thereafter whenever we attempted to set up our offices in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan the feudal lords of Punjab, the tribal chiefs having hold on their tribes, did not allow it using their influence to arrest our workers seal our offices. We held a massive rally at Ghanta Ghar (Clock Tower) in Multan in 1993 but then again our workers were arrested . Party offices were closed. It was only after the 2005 earthquake when the social service of MQM the Kidmat-e-Khalq Foundation (KKF) mobilised all its resources to provide relief and succor to the quake affected people throughout Pakistan that other communities realized that after seeing for ‘ Seeing is Believing’ that MQM is for everyone and that started warming hearts. We started establishing offices in Azad Kashmir and won two seats in the elections and had two of our members as Ministers in Azad Kashmir. We have made inroads into Gilgit Baltistan also and won one seat but the second highest number of votes there.
TCP: The general perception is that MQM draws its strength from street power and intimidation tactics. Your comments:
FS: Look ever since MQM came into the political landscape of Pakistan even when it was a regional party it won the elctions in a landslide victory. It was due to our track record that other communities such as the Sindhi Speaking, Punjabi speaking, Phushto speaking, Balochi speaking and Hazara area people joined us. When we boycotted the elections in 1993 the polling stations were deserted. In 1997 thousands of people voted for us. Do you think it is possible to bring so many people at gunpoint to the polling booths in the presence of the national and international media as well as international observers. It is ridiculous to say that MQM resorts to violence to advance its political cause. Moreover whenever there is violence then MQM is the loser as our workers are killed the most. It is the religious right that resorts to violence as they do not win any seats from Karchi. It is propanganda to believe that we do it.
TCP: Generally it is alleged that sector workers are engaged in criminal activities like ‘Bhatta’ (Illegal money collection). Your comments.
FS: It is totally false, fabricated and merely an allegation to defame MQM. We have millions of workers/voters in Pakistan. Any crime committed by any person privately is against the party policy and we take strong action against any such person. We never protect any criminal whoever he may be and our record proves the same without any doubt. I strongly deny any such allegation on party workers.
TCP: There is a feeling of alienation among Sindhis that MQM does not represent them and only the Urdu speaking people of Pakistan. Your comments:
FS: I think if the existing political breed in Pakistan. or political parties especially the Nationalist Parties in league with the establishment had not unleashed this propaganda, this vilification campaign by not only conspiring to engage in violence to make people believe that we are a ethnic based party and responsibile for violence, this feeling would not exist. I would refute these allegations categorically for our service to Sindh speaks for itself. Over the years my popularity graph has been going up. Karachi is the hub and growth engine of Pakistan which contributes the major tax to the country. The MQM under Mustafa Kamal’s leadership has developed Karachi immensely which is a major credit to Sindh and Karachi. This sense of alienation is a propanganda. We are also Sindhis , sons of the soil.
You have come for this interview at a very important juncture in the history of MQM for in a few days from now we are going to hold a massive rally for Punjabis, Sindhis, Pushtuns and Hazara people and other communities and MQM is mobilising them to show up. I would like to invite you as part of the Internationnal media to witness the diversity of our party
TCP: But Sindhis, feel that they are being deprived of their rights in jobs and admissions in school and colleges. Your comments.
FS; Ten years ago this could have been possible but ever since Dr Ishrat ul Ibad, the Governor of Sindh who is a representative of the Federal government but is a MQM nominee, assumed office this matter has been resolved. . There was discrimination from the syndicate of universities which stipulated that only those students who passed their Intermediate from Karachi would get addmission but it was Dr Ibad who used his good office and as the Chancellor of these Public Sector universities he convinced them to admit all students from throughout Sindh. We will support everyone in Sindh particularly for Education. We have to live here, work here and die here. I would like to rest assure everyone especially our Sindhi brothers that we are all sons of the soil.
TCP: In interior Sindh, It is believed that powerful landlords and tribal chiefs control the vote power, hence some influential families control Assembly memberships . How can you make inroads against their influence?
FS: Actually, only MQM is the party of middle class people which is evident from the family educational and economic background of our MNAs, MPAs, Senators and all the other position holders in the party. We encourage middle and poor class Sindhi speaking people in our party and have given them most important positions in the party and assembly and also in party policy decisions like Rabita Committee etc. This importance given to Sindhi speaking poor and middle class people of ‘ Have Nots’ attracts them to join our party and through this policy we are introducing a culture of middle class political workers and leaders and as such making serious inroads into rural ‘ Wadera Shahi Culture’. We are sure within next few years we will be in a position to make serious cultural and political changes in both the rural areas as well as urban areas of Sindh. Merit and sincerity with people is the only criteria and rich or poor does not matter in our party.
TCP: It is important to have a positive image of Pakistan especially in USA. What is MQM doing to boost its image in the USA?
FS: Perception is part of reality. In 1992 There was only one TV channel PTV, the state controlled media which portrayed a negative image of the party. A educated and sophisticated, secular party’s image was tarnished . We must bring change in the country. Martin Luther Ling Jr had a dream and forty years later his dream was realized and saw the light of day. Barack Obama transformed his dream into reality. That is the message of Altaf Hussain also. We must bring about change and yes we can do it.. The mushroom growth of the media has also helped us. We have a communication and media management wing ourselves which is in interaction with the media and working around the clock to project the image of our Party and Pakistan.
TCP: How can The Capital Post help as a voice or a medium to help you improve your image?
FS: First of all everyone should be clear in their minds that it was a propanganda against the MQM to create a wall of confusion around so people are not able to see reality. It goes to the credit of Mr Hussain That despite being thousands of miles away he has best led his party. You can spread the word of mouth that that we can bring change.
TCP: What is the message you wish to convey to the Pakistani community especially to the youth of Pakistan ?
FS: Their first duty would be unite, organise and mobilise themselves and portray a positive image of the party. They are the roaming Ambassdors of Pakistan. If they think that we are a secular, egalitarian party then they should mobilise their resources, their energies, their time. We are confronted with the menace of terrorism. We need to address these problems. We don’t need your dollars as we need your expertise your talent, your resources. We want you to come back and use your talent to its full potential. India, China and Singapore and even tiny Vietnam have used their human resources to its fullest and are Asian tigers today. I have faith and belief in the courage of the people of Pakistan and those abroad that we shall prevail.
TCP: Dr Saheb on behalf of The Capital Post and on my own behalf I would like to thank you for your time.
I want to ask the MQM. Do they know what fascism and dictatorship is?
The Sindhis are alienated. words are not enough. Who rules Karachi? The Mohajirs and mohajirs only.
I dont beleive a word he says? The MQM have developed Karachi and not Sindh. why are so many Sindhi youth jobless.
SAying representing Sindhis is one thing. What has the MQM done in Sindh.
It is seriuos conversation and great abstract by Dr Farooq Sattar. I hope in futre , there will be more interview need to conduct with other stars of MQM.
This party is full of great sincere ,faithfull workers who always work as a great team for single point agenda about pakistan
Good luck MQM
I was really imoressed by this interview. TCP should have more interviews like this.n
Dr Sattar is an outspken and elequent man. Mqm should be proud of him.
This is really an exclusive and informative interview.
Hats off to TCP.
A good interview but this is not a democratic party, It is a one man show.
This interview has made my overall perception of MQM change.
previously I attributed MQM to street violence. Good job TCP.
There should be more Interviews of other leaders also.
Dr Sattar has given a good impression of the party but acrion should spaek louder than words.
A very informative interview. Well done The Capital Post
An excellent interview which gives new insight into the MQM.