From mohallah to mainstream: The MQM’s transformation from an ethnic to a catch-all party




Baig, Noman

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This thesis asks how the Mohajir Quami Mahaz (MQM), transformed itself from an ethnic to a catch-all party. Existing literature heavily emphasizes the MQM’s militancy, while this thesis explores the journey of the party, formed in 1984 to represent Urdu-speakers in Pakistan, through each phase of its development down to its transformation into the Muttahida Qaumi Mahaz (United National Movement) in 1997. The MQM’s process of transformation can be explained theoretically through Kirchheimer’s catch-all party theory. My findings note a shift from an ethno-militant agenda of Mohajir interests to one stressing the need for “national unity” and modernization. It is argued that the party shifted from making choices based on ideology to a strategy-based politics. The MQM, therefore, sought voters outside its traditional constituent base in an effort to gain national appeal. As an urban-based middle-class party, it provides an ideal example of how a party adopts to a changing social environment fractured by military administration, modernity, and political Islam. Therefore, this thesis is the story of the MQM’s journey from mohallah to mainstream.



MQM, Pakistan, Karachi, Political Parties, South Asia, Party Change, Ethnic, Catch-all