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Has Saleem Shahzad left MQM for PTI?

Saleem Shahzad
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News Analysis |

Former Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Saleem Shahzad called on Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan on Tuesday and exchanged views on the prevailing political situation. The meeting was followed by confusion as some media outlets claimed that the MQM founder had joined the PTI.

Following the meeting, PTI’s spokesperson Fawad Chaudhary in a tweet said, “PTI welcomes Saleem Shahzad”. However, PTI’s official statement regarding the meeting did not carry any words regarding the joining of the former MQM leader, who is facing rioting case after he was arrested by Karachi police as he reached country ending years of long self-imposed exile.

Analysts assert that Shahzad is eyeing a Bihari ethnic vote bank from Orangi town. However, his difficulties are compounded due to the dispersal of Biharis across Karachi as well as large sections of Pakhtuns present within his area.

According to the statement, both leaders have vowed to work jointly for the betterment of Karachi, the economic hub of Pakistan. In December 2017, Saleem Shahzad announced his decision to set up his own political party under which he will take part in the upcoming general elections.

In July last year, Shahzad said he may form his own political party, claiming that it will be different from prevailing splinter groups of MQM. Talking to media outside of the city court, Shahzad said that he aimed at contesting election from Orangi Town, an area of the metropolitan city, adding that candidates of the party would also be fielded in other constituencies. A division within the MQM had started emerging when the party founder, Altaf Hussain, made anti-Pakistan speech inciting violence in August 2016.

Read more: MQM-PSP Merger: Will it last and what does it mean for…

Farooq Sattar, who was considered to be a close aide of Hussain, parted ways with the party and made his own party, MQM-Pakistan. Many other MQM lawmakers also left the party and joined hands with Sattar.

According to Malir SSP Rao Anwar, several cases were registered against Shahzad but all such cases were cancelled after the infamous NRO. Later, he was acquitted in the rioting case for lack of evidence.

Later, former mayor of Karachi, Mustafa Kamal also distanced himself from Hussain after inciting speech case and set up the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP). Now, Shehzad has decided to enter Karachi’s politics through a new party. He said that everyone except target killers and those involved in China-cutting can become the member of the party.

Shahzad, a close aide of MQM, had been taken into custody by the Karachi police when he landed at Karachi airport from Dubai in February this year after ending a 24-year long self-imposed exile. He was wanted by the police in several cases. Later, he was freed from prison in June on bail.

Read more: MQM & PSP: A one night stand

One of the recent allegations against him was leveled by Pakistan Peoples Party leader Dr. Asim Hussain saying that Shahzad had provided shelter to terrorists and facilitated them for medical treatment.

He, however, is facing three other cases lodged in the ’90s at the Malir and Landhi police stations pertaining to murder, kidnapping, wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation and rioting.

Saleem Shahzad is one of the founding members of the MQM. While at the airport, Shahzad had told a private news channel that he had returned to the country voluntarily and was ready to face the cases against him to prove his innocence.

“I have come here to do politics,” he had said at the time. He said he had left the MQM the day the party’s leader Altaf Hussain raised alleged anti-Pakistan slogans on August 22nd, 2016.

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As opposed to many of the founding members of the MQM, Saleem Shehzad was not a member of the Urdu speaking community but an ethnic Bihari. Shahzad remained a member of the National Assembly in 1988 and 1990. He had left the country in 1992, apparently to avoid arrest during a crackdown against the party. He, however, first returned to the country in 2007 — after remaining in self-exile for about 15 years.

One of the recent allegations against him was leveled by Pakistan Peoples Party leader Dr. Asim Hussain saying that Shahzad had provided shelter to terrorists and facilitated them for medical treatment.

Shahzad remained associated with the MQM since its inception as a student organisation in 1978, except for a brief period in 2009, until he was removed from the Coordination Committee in London in 2013. He was later expelled from the party.

Read more: Industrialists complain of PTI indifference in Karachi

According to Malir SSP Rao Anwar, several cases were registered against Shahzad but all such cases were cancelled after the infamous National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Later, he was acquitted in the rioting case for lack of evidence. He, however, is facing three other cases lodged in the ’90s at the Malir and Landhi police stations pertaining to murder, kidnapping, wrongful confinement, criminal intimidation and rioting.

Analysts assert that Shahzad is eyeing a Bihari ethnic vote bank from Orangi town. However, his difficulties are compounded due to the dispersal of Biharis across Karachi as well as large sections of Pakhtuns present within his area.


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