SPOTLIGHT ON ALTAF HUSSAIN

Altaf Hussain is the founder and leader of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). The MQM emerged as the third largest political party in the national assembly of Pakistan during 1988 and 1990 elections. The MQM secured representation in the parliamentary elections held in the northern areas of Pakistan comprising Kashmir & Gilgit-Baltistan. Since 1992 he has lived in the United Kingdom in self exile after surviving an assassination attempt in Pakistan.

Background

Altaf Hussain was born to Nazir Hussain and Khursheed Begum on 17 September 1953 in Karachi.His parents belonged to religious families from Agra, India. After the formation of Pakistan in 1947, his parents migrated to Pakistan and settled in Karachi. Hussain’s grand-father, Mufti Mohammad Ramazan, was Grand Mufti of the town of Agra, UP, India and his maternal grand-father Haji Hafiz Raheem Bhux was a reputed religious scholar in India.

Education

Altaf Hussain got his early education from Govt Comprehensive School, Azizabad No. 8 Karachi. He then completed his matriculation in 1969 from Government Boys Secondary School. He attended National College Karachi during First Year of his Intermediate Education (Pre-Medical/Science) but switched to City College Karachi during Second Year of Intermediate from where he completed Intermediate.After that he went on to complete his Bachelors of Science from Islamia Science College (Karachi) in 1974 apart from completing his Bachelor of Pharmacy by 1979 from the University of Karachi. After completion of his Bachelor of Pharmacy he later enrolled for his Master’s degree.

Early career

Hussain began his career as a trainee at Karachi’s Seventh Day Advent Hospital. At the same time, he also worked for a multi-national pharmaceutical company. Between 1970 and 1971, Hussain joined the National Service Cadet Scheme. Soon afterwards, he also joined the Baloch Regiment of Pakistan Army.

Political Involvement

Altaf Hussain was politically active from a very young age. While attending Karachi University, on June 11, 1978, Hussain founded the “All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organization” (APMSO). The APMSO was formed as a student rights group campaigning for the rights of Muhajir students at Karachi University. It later gave birth to the Muhajir Qaumi Movement (MQM), which transformed into Muttahida Qaumi Movement in 1997. Before creating the APMSO, Hussain served as General Secretary and later as President of the National Student’s Action Committee at Karachi University.The Pakistani government launched Operation Clean-up in 1992 and sent the military into Karachi to crack down on the MQM. Hussain escaped Karachi one month before the operation began because of an attack on his life on December 21, 1991. Hussain fled to London and applied for political asylum.

Ideology/Philosophy

Altaf Hussain believes history has proved the two-nation theory wrong. He contended that:

The idea of Pakistan was dead at its inception, when the majority of Muslims chose to stay back after partition, a truism reiterated in the creation of Bangladesh in 1971

Altaf Hussain and his party, MQM, follow the philosophy of Realism and Practicalism.Talking about his party MQM, Hussain stated that

We stand for equal rights and opportunities for all irrespective of colour, creed, cast, sect, gender, ethnicity or religion. We strive tirelessly for tolerance, religious or otherwise and oppose fanaticism, terrorism and violence in all their manifestations.

In the last few years, Hussain has warned against the growing influence of the Taliban in Karachi. Hussain stated that the “advocates of Jihad, a medieval concept to tame the infidel, are wantonly killing followers of the faith as they level places of worship.” In 2008, he stated that a “well planned conspiracy to intensify sectarian violence in the city, was being hatched.”

Views on Pak-Indo Relations

Hussain has stated on numerous occasions that the division of the subcontinent was the biggest blunder in the history of mankind

He believes that the partition divided the Muslims of the subcontinent and made them weaker as a result. Hussain favors peace between India and Pakistan and stated in his 2004 address in India that “India and Pakistan being the two largest in the region, need to demonstrate magnanimity and the necessary political wisdom and desire to truly seek peace. The Confidence Building Measures contemplated to bring the people of both countries closer must be implemented vigorously.” On the issue of Kashmir, Hussain stated that Indo-Pak dialogue should be allowed to “proceed on the basis of mutual adjustment and agreement…[and] It should be clear to all concerned that there can be no military solution to any of the contentious issues, let alone the issue of Kashmir.”

National Reconciliation Ordinance

In November 2009, Hussain was a beneficiary when the Government of Pakistan enabled a legal act (in December 2009 it was repealed) called National Reconciliation Ordinance which granted amnesty to politicians, political workers and bureaucrats who were accused of crimes between 1986 and October 1999, the time between two occurrences of Martial law