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Asia-Pacific

Muttahida Quami Movement - trying to broaden its appeal

media Altaf Hussein Facebook Screen Grab

The Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) was the fourth largest party in the outgoing parliament and is powerful in Pakistan’s economic capital, Karachi. Despite its distinctive social liberalism, it has so far failed to build a nationwide base.

The MQM was formed when Altaf Hussein decided to transform the All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organisation, which he had founded in 1978, into a political party based on muhajirs, the Urdu-speaking migrants who had come to Pakistan from India at partition.

  • Leader: Altaf Hussain
  • Founder: Altaf Hussain
  • Founded: 1984
  • In power: Karachi city government 2005-2009, junior coalition partner 2002-2013
     

It was at first known as the Muhajir Quami Movement and was dedicated to fighting the discrimination that the immigrants believed they faced in their new homeland.

Dossier: Pakistan General Election 2013

It built a strong base of support in Sindh, especially Karachi, where many muhajirs had settled, enjoying a stormy relationship with the PPP, the largest party in the province.

In the 1980s Sindhi politics became increasingly violent and Nawaz Sharif’s government launched a military operation ostensibly to crack down on all armed groups, both political and criminal.

The MQM viewed the operation as an attempt to wipe it out and many of its activists were jailed or killed, while the violence persisted, especially in Karachi.

Claiming that his liberty and even his life were in danger, Altaf Hussein went into voluntary exile in London in 1992, while the party, along with others in the province, became increasingly militarised and was accused of involvement in criminal activities.

In 1997 the MQM swapped Muhajir for Muttahida in its title to become the United National Movement in a bid to broaden its appeal to all Pakistanis.

The party controlled Karachi city council between 2005 and 2009, boosting its infrastructure but failing to end violence.

The MQM was a junior coalition partner under Musharraf, which led to clashes with the PPP, but then joined the PPP-led coalition after the 2008 election.

The party is resolutely secular and takes a more liberal stance than most large Pakistani parties on many social issues.

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