Karachi: Dr Mohammad Farooq Sattar is the right-hand man of Altaf Hussain, the founding chief of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and one of his key confidants in the party. Sattar leads the party in Pakistan in line with the broader guidelines from Hussain, who is in exile for more than two decades.
Sattar held different positions in the party and served his constituencies in many capacities — from a mayor to a minister. Despite being physically frail, Sattar is highly energetic and dynamic orator and conversationalist, and respected for his humble disposition.
Sattar spoke to Gulf News at a coffee shop. In the latter part of the interview his wife joined him to celebrate their wedding anniversary over a cup of cappuccino.
Gulf News: How would you rate your performance as the minister for overseas Pakistanis?
Sattar: We carved out a policy framework to facilitate the overseas Pakistanis in remitting their hard earned money to their loved ones. Now, a proper policy is in place and Rs14 billion (Dh523 million) have been achieved with the combined efforts of the State Bank, overseas Pakistan ministry and the ministry of finance. The combined Pakistan Remittances Initiative (PRI) restored the confidence of overseas Pakistanis.
Q: How the political role and the support of overseas Pakistanis could be mustered to promote the democratic process in Pakistan.
A: I proposed three bills — one was the grant of right to vote and that bill is pending with the prime minister and the cabinet and the president.
Q: The MQM has spent more than a decade in government now. What are your achievements?
A: My achievements pertained to the first tier of democratic government, whatever democracy was under the then president Pervez Musharraf.
Q: Why was that?
A: Because of more power, authority and liberty during president Musharraf’s regime. And that is because of the presence of most effective democracy at grass roots.
Q: So what did you achieve?
A: There were three achievements; law and order — in Karachi there was no targeted killing by and large. There was no sectarian, ethnic or political tension or strife in Karachi. The city was peaceful and stable. Development of infrastructure transformed the city as the 12 fastest-growing cities in the world because of the local government.
Q: What about your performance at provincial and federal levels
A: At the federal and provincial levels we attracted investments. Ministry of port and shipping and ministry and ministry of communication were transformed through building of roads and ports. A lot of development took place at Port Qasim and new berths were set up at Karachi Port.
Q: How many jobs were created?
A: We created thousands of jobs through local governments, infrastructure development and building and refurbishment of Port Qasim and Karachi Port. We have signed an agreement with China, so Gwadar Port will be developed soon. We had $1 billion investment in Karachi and provided over 100,000 jobs.
Q: What were the major hurdles in the second term?
A: In the second term, the local government system was totally missing. In fact, the law which provided powers from the provinces to the local government was rolled back. We tried to save some of the [local government] power by politically compromising. There were no local government elections. This is the biggest tragedy in the history of Pakistan that no civilian democratically elected government has ever held elections for the local governments.
Q: Now you are going into elections next month. What would you offer to your voters?
A: I have convinced my constituency that despite all odds we have tried to serve them to the best of our ability. Whatever funds we got from the federal as well as the province we have made the best use. And through utilising those funds we have tried to make up for the absence of local government in Pakistan.
Q: What have you lost during the past five years?
A: My loss is the loss of the country. Karachi’s law and order is in very bad shape, investment has almost stopped in Pakistan and extremism and terrorism is on the rise. So it is not my loss, it is the national loss. Taliban, who fled from Waziristan, Malakand and South Waziristan after the military operations, are building an international centre of terrorism in Karachi. If we do not act immediately, Karachi will become the next war zone soon.
Q: How can it be stopped?
A: There are short term, medium term and long term solutions. We need to have a national counter terrorism policy in place, supported by the parliament to handle terrorism. There are three Ds — Deterrence, Development and Dialogues.
Q: Where do you see MQM after the elections?
A: MQM is a visionary party. It is a party of the masses — middle class and working class — that wants a change in Pakistan. If they really want to give a chance to the country through a ballot, they should elect the best people.
Q: Who are your electoral allies?
A: We will do seat-to-seat adjustment with like-minded political parties. And when I say like-minded, I don’t want to confine to any party, except Jamat-e-Islami and even with the Jamat-e-Islami we desire to maintain working relationships. But we want our working relationship should be at good terms with PML-N, ANP, Jamat-e-Islami and Tehreek-e-Insaf.
Q: What about Musharraf?
A: If he feels that he can serve the people in a better way, he should. If there is a legal case against him only he could tell how deal with it. But one thing I will certainly add is in his time there was investment in the country and law and order was much better. The biggest problem with him is that he is not politically trained.