The above verses, taken from the poem Faith penned by MQM leader Imran Farooq in 1999, express classic themes of sorrow and unfulfilled longing in the mid-twentieth-century progressive Urdu poetic style and reiterate the need for endurance and self-sacrifice (faith) if the Mohajirs are to overcome their misfortunes in Pakistan. These misfortunes, we have seen, narrativise the contours of a dominant understanding of Mohajir nationalist politics and cultural identity within MQM, before and after its emergence onto Pakistan’s political scene in the early 1980s. They characterise the Mohajirs’ condition in Pakistan as deeply intertwined with their position in nineteenth-century India, with Pakistan’s bloody inception and with their progressive marginalisation from Pakistan’s social and political structures of power during its first 60 years. Contemporary social and political practices involving the Karachi conflict can be best understood by looking at the ways in which different positions on the fate of Mohajirs developed over time. As illustrated in Farooq’s sombre poem, for many Partition failed to deliver on its promise of a better life. Further, during the violence involving Mohajirs in the conflict, political discourse within MQM became replete with recumbent ideas and sentiments about ‘repeated’ historical injuries revolving around Partition, whose violent repair became fatefully interwreathed with contemporary political goals. These ideas were enlivened and fortified because the Karachi conflict involved violence on a scale not witnessed by many Mohajirs since Partition. It becomes clear, in looking backwards to explain the present, that the fracturing of the Indian subcontinent, its reconstitution in the Pakistani state and the failed expectations of its Mohajir citizens can all constitute elements of a horizon for rethinking ideas about nationalism, modernity, identity and violence. Structured around political myths of Mohajir nationalism, this chapter explores the interlocking dynamics of cumulative contexts of exclusion and military repression in myths of Mohajir nationalism, and considers some ways that

these myths, vitalised in nationalist discourse, moved people to endorse and engage in political militancy and violence. Developing the historical events outlined previously, it expands on the discussions of F. Ahmed (1999), Korejo (2002), Rahman (1996), South Asia Forum for Human Rights (2002) and Waseem (2003) for example on the centrality of foundational myths to Mohajir nationalism, and scrutinises a series of myths which was central to the political culture and identity developed by MQM leaders and loyalists during the conflict. Although the terms nationalist and cultural identity and definitions of nation, nationalism and ethnic community are interconnected, according to Smith even interchangeable (2004:197), following MQM’s use of qaum (nation), I use nation to refer to the political community of Mohajirs represented. The construct myth is a useful analytical tool for its ability to encapsulate people’s commitment to redefine the Mohajirs’ place in Pakistani politics and society, rather than describe an incontestable truth. It provides a useful departure point for an analysis of why nationalist claims structured around rich idioms of sacrifice, exclusion and entitlement, are politically potent across socio-economic strata. Myths of Mohajir nationalism can provide the bridging construct for examining how past/present and public/private feelings of injury can become key historical and discursive forces for shaping identity and behaviour. These myths that secure popular understandings of Mohajir identity are plural. Contradictory formulations of nation, myth and identity are subject to different, even oppositional, interpretations by insiders, outsiders and analysts. As with any dominant ideal or identity construct, Mohajir-ness is dynamic, contested and elusive. Rather than propose an essential Mohajir identity, this chapter explores how elements of a collective past were reasserted and transformed within MQM at a critical historical moment. Without proposing Mohajir nationalism as the exclusive outcome of homogeneous collective interests, or of cultural memory, it analyses affective currents in the Mohajirs’ cultural imagination, revealing links between individual and collective narratives of grievance and opposition, as well as affective contours in the shaping of party-political representations and citizens’ understandings of ethnicity and violence. I find Anthony Smith’s concept of nationalist myth useful as it captures the lack of concern myths have with establishing empirical truth and their central symbolic role in transmitting a historical code of collective beliefs and values within and across generations (Smith 2003; 2004). For this purpose Smith favours the term ‘myth-memories’, used synonymously with ‘historical memories’ and ‘ancestral myths’ to denote symbolic elements of national identities. The power of myth-memories, for Smith, lies in the totality of their explanation and in their provision of a common moral mapping to diverse elements and experience by looking backwards to explain the present. Considered structurally, an MQM myth could be considered a set of narrative formulas acquiring potency through specifiable historical action with relevance to present Mohajir claims of rightful inheritance. The cohesion for nationalist identity would lie in imagining continuity with elements of the past, ‘within’ the ethno-historical imagination, rather than the particulars of social action. In this process, narrative or chrono-

logical continuity is secondary to the power of these claims to outline shared objectives, rationalise violence and reverberate deeply with interpretations of the past and desires for the future. Yet, to issue caution – whilst, myths may homogeneously attach individuals to identity categories in the formation of nation and nation-state through the dual raising of geographical and cultural ‘frontiers’, and despite their analytical importance, they do not explain how social processes of identity construction translate into interior states. Nor do they have the autonomous power to determine violence. Myths of violence must be analysed in their social, political and discursive contexts if they are to be more than interesting stories. Otherwise, as Aretxaga has argued, we may reiterate the old anthropological distinction of endowing primitive man, manifest most commonly in contemporary discourse in his ‘terrorist’ form, with illogical irrational thinking, while reserving rational thinking for modern civilised man (1997:94). This chapter examines myths in action, in the context of their interplay with a host of parallel physical and discursive battles over the nature and meaning of ethnicity and violence. It seeks answers to several questions: How, and through what processes, have Mohajir ethnic identity, political culture and political violence been constructed and represented? In the context of their interplay with a host of discursive constructions, party-political and media representations of ethnicity and violence, how have myths been mobilised into action? What is Partition’s role in unifying people around ideas of nationalism, ethnicity and violence? How are ethnicity and violence experienced and executed from different (Mohajir and non-Mohajir) positionalities? How do different historical periods and events commingle and synthesise in mobilising myths into action? Flitting between discontinuous time periods, I consider how violence is experienced, ‘felt’ and prosecuted from different positionalities. It is clear that myths involve appreciable criss-crossing between historical periods as well as between sources. They reveal convergences and dissonances between diverse actors, and tensions between past and present and are not always congruent with each other, even where they are continuous. Given that they reflect different positionalities, they also reflect variegated levels of potency and continuity and link apparently disjunctive time periods through an ethnicised reaction to present circumstances. The 11 myths under examination are listed below.