Syed Mustafa Kamal, Senator and former Mayor of Karachi
Syed Mustafa Kamal (SMK): Well, I joined MQM as a street worker in the mid 1980s when I was in school and I have been with MQM in all good and bad weathers. I joined the party agreeing with its cause i.e. ‘Citizen Empowerment’. I had never thought that I would become MPA, Nazim or Senator or get any high profile post. MQM made me member of provincial assembly in 2002, then in 2003 my party made me the minister of information technology (IT) and then in 2005 they made me Mayor or Nazim of Karachi and now in 2012, I am in the Senate.
JWT: What’s the basic difference between the ‘Local Bodies System’ introduced by the General Musharraf and the recent one which is the outcome of negotiations of PPP and MQM?
SMK: It is mixture of both 1979 Local Bodies Ordinance initiated by Zia regime and Musharraf’s Local Bodies Ordinance 2001. Unfortunately, in Pakistan local bodies systems are always launched by the military regimes instead of any political or democratic regime. So, it is in the history of Pakistan that first time two political parties which are in a democratic engagement have brought a Local Bodies Law and the current law has been by signed by the governor. We have taken all the good things from both Local Bodies Ordinances although it is not an ideal law. In fact, we want more devolution as we think devolution is the key to empowerment at the grass root level. Actually, a pure financially devolved Local Bodies System can only bring the empowerment to the door step of people of Pakistan. It is not the ideal nevertheless, but, when two parties sit together and start negotiation then it becomes matter of give and take. PPP was not willing to accept couple of our demands and same was the case with us. Eventually, we agreed and the current law contains good features of both previous laws.
JWT: You started a campaign ‘I Own Karachi’ now owing to the present situation of Karachi, do you think that any such campaign will redress the problems of Karchiaites when new Local Bodies System is installed?
SMK: Right now the bureaucrats appointed in Karachi by the provincial governments are running day to day affairs of the city, they do not care much as they don’t have to go for votes to the people. In fact, they are enjoying a honeymoon period because after two years they will be transferred to somewhere else, so they are here merely for making money. That is the reason corruption is on the rise. Therefore, in such situation no campaign will be viable. The department ‘I own Karachi’ is still there but it is dysfunctional, nobody gets any benefit from this department because it all depends upon the ownership. I am a political worker and after five years I have to go to the people to ask for votes and I was not the only one, there were 3200 elected representatives including town nazims, union nazims, and councillors etc. So, we were all like a whole team people from the opposition and people from the treasury bench too. Hence, it was not the matter of only Mustafa Kamal but of a whole system as you see the system is not there that is why the problems of Karachites are not addressed and Karachi is in this condition.
JWT: Is law and order one of the subjects of current Local Bodies Ordinance?
JWT: But contrary to the present situation during your tenure Karachi was peaceful?
JWT: It is interesting that the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KW&SB) is unable to fulfil the need of water in Karachi but on the other hand, there is a ‘water tanker mafia’ in Karachi they have all the water! You had been the chairman of KW&SB, kindly comment on this?
SMK: Yes, this mafia is present in Karachi but I had reduced it from 9000 up to 500 but now it has gone more than 10,000. This mafia is earning money by blocking the pipelines laid down by us and selling the same water to the people. This malpractice can only be halted by the leadership that would come through the local bodies elections.
SMK: MQM is a youth base party Quaid-e-Tehreek Altaf Hussain bhai started his struggle when he was just 22 years old from a student party. In fact, MQM is the only political party which is the offspring of student political wing i.e. All Pakistan Muhajir Students Organizations (APMSO) formed in 1979. Then APMSO gave birth to a political party in 1984 i.e. Muhajir Quomi Movement. And from that party we further evolved and became Mutahida Quomi Movement because we gather people from different parts of the country so, we converted into Mutahida Quomi Movement (MQM) in 1997. Now even today if you see 95% parliamentarians of MQM are young, I myself became the member provincial assembly in the age of 28 years then at the age of 30, I became the mayor of Karachi, the biggest city of Pakistan. So, it is a young people’s party. I think those people who are sloganeering for youth today must not forget that we have been positively using the slogan of youth for the last 30 years. Now as far as youth as a decisive factor in the upcoming elections is concerned, I must say I cannot make any judgment in this regard. It highly depends on how we shall mobilize the youth in the coming elections because I find it difficult considering the youth’s activities on social media. We must be aware of this fact that only 5% of our youth can use the Facebook, Twitter etc while 80% of youth lives in rural areas they have not access to the internet. Unfortunately, most of the youth and people of rural areas are not literate. So, it all depends that how we shall reach out to them and mobilize them in the elections.
JWT: What will be the MQM’s strategy for Punjab in the coming elections?
JWT: Are you satisfied with our declining education system?