Sattar-Kamal handshake fails to break the ice

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KARACHI: While Altaf Hussain-led Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) is being denied political space in Karachi, a handshake between Dr Farooq Sattar and Mustafa Kamal at an event failed to break the ice between the two MQM factions, it emerged on Saturday.

Dr Sattar and Mr Kamal — the two former mayors of Karachi who are now leading the MQM-Pakistan and the Pak Sarzameen Party, respectively — were invited to a seminar on “The role of youth in national integration and regional connectivity” at Karachi University on Saturday.

The two leaders sat together on front-row seats which were already reserved for them, exchanged pleasantries and shook hands. The photographs and footage of their handshake was aired by every television channel, prompting Mr Hussain-led MQM-London to heap scorn on them.

MQM-London leader Mustafa Azizabadi posted the photograph in a tweet, saying that the scene at a seminar, according to his claim, “organised by the Inter-Services Public Relations” was enough to figure out “so many things”.

In a bid to clarify it was Dr Sattar’s ‘chance meeting’ with the PSP chairman, MQM-P leader Faisal Subzwari tweeted the footage of the seminar in which Dr Sattar looked agitated when a photojournalist asked him to shake hands with Mr Kamal.

However, they shook hands while Mr Kamal said in a lighter vein they could even hug each other.

This was not the first occasion when the leadership of the two parties, which often criticise each other in press conferences and press releases, met publicly. Earlier this week, MQM-P leader Aamir Khan met PSP leader Raza Haroon and Dr Sagheer Ahmed at a wedding reception.

When asked whether the two parties are getting closer and the recent meetings, including the one on Saturday, were the beginning of a fresh start, Mr Subzwari told Dawn: “No, not at all. They were accidental, social meetings. A member of the MQM coordination committee accidentally met a [MQM] London guy today. [It] doesn’t mean we are close to London.”

He said that the MQM-P was very clear that political differences must not be translated into animosity.

Before and after Aug 22 last year, Mr Kamal had strongly criticised Dr Sattar in his press conferences and media talks. Then he termed Dr Sattar’s Aug 23 decision to dissociate himself from the London-based supremo and take over the MQM-P “eyewash” and accused him of still being in contact with Mr Hussain and his London secretariat.

Mr Kamal has openly asked Dr Sattar and other leaders of his party to resign from their assembly seats since they obtained mandate in the name of Altaf Hussain and contest elections afresh from the platform of the PSP, a piece of advice immediately rejected by the MQM-P.

Mr Kamal has often used harsh language against Mr Hussain and alleged that he works for Indian intelligence agency the Research and Analysis Wing and runs teams of hitmen. But Dr Sattar, or any other MQM-P leader, has never said such things about him.

However, their actions clearly suggest that they are trying hard to escape the shadow of Mr Hussain.

For Mr Hussain and his loyalists, both Dr Sattar and Mr Kamal are “traitors” and whatever they are doing is at the behest of the establishment.

They say that Mr Hussain’s loyalists are being arrested even from their houses but the PSP and MQM-P have been given a free hand to carry out political activities.

Since Jan 31, the MQM-London has been releasing audio messages of its beleaguered chief in which he is also critical of the Rangers’ announcement about recovery of weapons belonging to the “MQM-London”.

In one message, Mr Hussain requests Chief of Army Staff Gen Qamar Bajwa to grant his party political space and play his role in securing release of arrested activists, including septuagenarian educationist Prof Dr Hasan Zafar Arif.

He lashes out at Dr Sattar and Mr Kamal for ditching him and, in another message, urges his followers to go into hiding or leave the country to save their lives.

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