Former Sindh governor Ishratul Ebad mulling a comeback to Karachi’s politics

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DUBAI: After being approached by some “prominent political players and Karachi stakeholders”, former Sindh governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan is considering a return to Karachi’s politics.

In a joint conversation by The News and Geo, Ebad discussed his future plans and views about the current turmoil in Pakistani politics, particularly Karachi. 

When asked if he was approached by influential figures to make a comeback to the politics of Karachi in particular as well as Pakistan before and after the 2018 elections, Dr Ebad didn’t deny it.

However, the former governor avoided opening up about the proposals and promises that have been put before him but he did speak about his tenure as the longest-serving governor of Sindh. 

‘Karachi operation got Centre’s support with PML-N in power’

Dr Ebad said the Karachi operation got the full support of the Centre as soon as the PML-N formed its government in 2013. He stressed the importance of developing the city’s infrastructure, adding that he took advantage of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s passion for development projects. 

Dr Ebad said: “In one meeting, I told Mian Sahib that you are not only the prime minister of Punjab but Pakistan and that Karachi also deserves a mass transit system,” he said. 

“He asked me to meet him again. In the next meeting, he got convinced and immediately approved the Greenline, M-9 Motorway, and Malir Expressway and the work started. His support for the Karachi operation and development was decisive,” he added. 

Dr Ebad resigned in November 2016 as Sindh governor, bringing to an end the longest ever stint for any governor in the history of Pakistan. He left Karachi immediately for Dubai citing security issues. 

Ebad has been living ever since in Dubai, mostly out of the public eye and political affairs of Pakistan, but keenly watching the unfolding developments.

Ideally, Dr Ebad should have landed in London to spend his time with his family but he has chosen not to step inside the UK. His home is a stone’s throw away from the MQM former’s International Secretariat and at a 10-minute drive from MQM founder Altaf Hussain’s Mill Hill residence.

When asked if he wanted to avoid speculation and needless association with his former colleagues – now operating under the MQM London banner – he confirmed that living in London would not give him the peace of mind that he much needed and would rather generate such assumptions.

As one of the founding members of the MQM, Dr Ebad regrets that the party spiralled into self-destruction after having achieved so much for the people of Karachi and the urban centres of Sindh.

‘MQM represented educated middle-class of Pakistan’

“The MQM represented an educated middle-class of the country that became the victim of a fringe minority who infiltrated criminality [into it], resulting in several fragmentations of the party,” he said. 

He regretted that once considered as a national asset, the party turned into a liability in the eyes of the then policymakers.

‘MQM left me in April 2015’

“The MQM left me in April 2015. There is no doubt that I fully supported the Karachi operation against the hardcore criminals but these were from all parties, including nationalist and religious groups, and the operation was not targeted at any single party,” he recalled.

Dr Ebad revealed that he never spoke to the MQM founder after April 2015. After his August 2016 infamous speech, he regretted such anti-state speech and said: “Politics should never fall to the extent that anti-state narrative is taken. It is Pakistan that has given us identity and this is what we should teach our generations to come ahead.”

Dr Ebad was amongst the first to criticise the launch of the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) terming it a joke and said that his opinion about the PSP was proven right over time.

“The PSP was an ambitious experiment that headed for a fall from the start, despite enjoying all the state support. Lessons need to be learned from the fate of the PSP,” he said.  

However, he also feels it was a blessing in disguise for the MQM as it became “filtered from criminality”.

Ebad believes none of the parties have delivered 

Moving forward to the recent years, he believes that every party has failed to deliver anything to Karachiites in the last three years and has created a political vacuum. 

“Despite PTI having a majority of seats in Karachi, unfortunately, they have failed to meet public expectations,” he said. 

Dr Ebad doesn’t pitch himself as the leader of the MQM-Pakistan or any other party but strongly believes that things need to change otherwise, they will get out of control. 

“The current geopolitical situation demands that the political vacuum in Karachi be addressed, otherwise, the Afghan crises and anti-state elements can give rise to instability and create a law and order situation in Karachi.

“If Karachi suffers, the whole state suffers, as Karachi is the economic engine of Pakistan.”

He remains in touch with his former colleagues in the MQM-P. He accepts that a small group within the MQM-P may be against him in taking part in politics, whereas the majority is not only in touch with him but also wants him to return and be involved in a leadership role with the MQM-P. 

Dr Ebad firmly agreed that a robust, reputed, educated, and experienced leadership must unite to deliver governance and regain public trust.

He also believes that the current convener of MQM-P, Dr Khalid Maqbool, is an educated face of the party and must be strengthened with experienced people, including Dr Farooq Sattar and Dr Farough Naseem.

As Governor of Sindh, Dr Ishrat Ebad has no regrets as he believes he has performed his duties with utmost sincerity for the state. Dr Ishrat Ebad is, meanwhile, weighing his options on returning to politics. 

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