Who benefited from Saulat’s leak? - By Mazhar Abbas

All is set to send Saulat Mirza to the gallows in the first week of May, as the stay to his execution will expire on April 30, and there is no indication of further extension. But, in the last one month his “video” created sensation in the country. Who benefited from it and what was the purpose may remain a mystery, but not many people know that this “leak” has widened the trust deficit between the Establishment and the MQM after they had almost reached an “understanding”, an unimpeachable source disclosed.


Governor Sindh Dr Ishratul Ibad, once considered as a “bridge” between the Establishment and the MQM, played an important role in it, but the surprise release of “Saulat’s video” from the death cell created a serious misunderstanding.


Is he still relevant or not after Altaf Hussain disassociated himself from his veteran colleague, but he has still not been asked to resign, raising hope for a change of heart. So, what was the motive behind this video, as it may hardly have any significance in the eyes of law including his confessional statement recorded by the Joint Investigation Team at Machh Jail.


There has been a lot of ups and downs from January 29 to March 11 during which many cases against the alleged suspects of MQM came up, arrests were made, Nine-Zero and Khursheed Memorial Hall were raided and many controversial confessional statements were leaked but the biggest hype came on Saulat Mirza’s video leak.


During all this period, a serious concern of the Establishment was communicated about some speeches of Altaf Hussain against the Rangers and his remarks about the Establishment. All this was communicated to the MQM hierarchy through the Sindh governor.


At the same time damage control efforts also continued and the two almost reached an understanding, but the video leak damaged all these attempts.Meantime, cases like money laundering or Dr Imran Farooq also continued in London and the Pakistani authorities extended full cooperation.


Legal experts believe once Saulat was hanged, his JIT statement will have no legal value as the accused would not be alive to face the cross-examination. The question is, then why his video leak and statement before the JIT got so much hype and how it would help the investigators.


Saulat was convicted in the murder of former KESC MD Shahid Hamid some 17 years ago. His mercy petition was also rejected by successive presidents. However, President Mamnoon Hussain extended the date of his hanging on the request of the prime minister.


His last hope faded out when after the Army Public School, Peshawar massacre the civil and military leadership decided that all those facing death penalty and whose mercy petitions had been rejected must be executed.But, perhaps, in an unprecedented development in the prison history, a video statement of death convict was recorded from the death cell and leaked to the media.


For years, the MQM and the Establishment have a “love-hate” relationship, but in the recent time it strained since January this year, but in order to control the damage, serious efforts continued to improve the situation through “indirect source” and the “understanding” they reached on certain points of “Karachi Targeted Action.”


These include: (1) MQM will be free to carry out its political activities. (2) No attempts would be made for any “minus-Altaf or MQM” formula, (3) no other group within the MQM will be created. All this apprehension was there, keeping the record of the past operation.


On the other hand, the MQM was asked it would not oppose operation against anyone suspected in any criminal activities if he belongs to the MQM. In many words, they were also told that they would not use any pressure like strikes in case of these arrests.


The MQM said it had always supported operation against criminals or anyone involved in terrorist activities, but whoever is arrested should be punished through the court of law and not through extrajudicial killing.


Altaf Hussain, after a grand victory in NA-246, in one of his speeches has once again appealed to the Establishment to recognize and accept the MQM’s mandate and consider it a patriotic party.


DG Rangers Major General Bilal Akbar also gave a positive statement after the elections that the free and fair election proved that Rangers were not against any political party.


Thus, it could be a fresh beginning but trust deficit still persist on certain issues. The MQM has never demanded the release of any arrested suspects in the last few months except former ABAD Chairman Babar Chughtai, who had now been freed, though they were not happy the manner in which Amir Khan was arrested after being assured that he would not be detained.


Altaf Hussain was also unhappy at the raids at Nine-Zero and Khursheed Memorial Hall, Azizabad. The MQM’s position has been further consolidated as 20 of its candidates out of a total of 27 won in the Cantonment Board elections.


Prior to April 23 elections, Altaf Hussain disassociated himself from his longest serving governor and asked all MQM leaders not to consider him as their “man”. But, now some efforts are being made to revive this relationship, as Ishratul Ibad is still considered “relevant.”


Some of the startling details gathered by this scribe reveal that some elements within the former Establishment wanted MQM to support PTI’s “dharna politics” and almost succeeded in pursuing its leadership to support Dr Tahirul Qadri. Former Governor Punjab Ch Sarwar also played a role in it, but due to trust deficit the MQM refused to join Imran’s movement. After the MQM’s refusal, Dr Qadri also backed out and left the country.


Dr. Ibad remained among the most trusted aides to Altaf Hussain. Had it not been his trust in him, the MQM leader would have replaced him several years back or even after 2008 elections. He played a very important role when the PPP-MQM often came at the level of confrontation.


The MQM may get some breathing space after its back to back victory, but the cases which still cause worry is “money laundering” in London and to some extent Dr Imran Farooq case. The Rangers may continue with the policy of 3-D against the MQM i.e. “dis mental, disown or dealt” with militancy, but it has been decided at the highest level that there will be no interference in the MQM’s politics.


So, whatever the motives behind Saulat Mirza’s video leak, the manner in which it was leaked had done little damage to the MQM, politically. However, it may remain a mystery as to why it was leaked to media at a time when an understanding was about to reach between the MQM and the Establishment.The writer is the senior analyst and columnist of GEO, The News and Jang.


Published in The News on April 29, 2015.