August Issue 2013

By | Newsbeat | Published 7 years ago

An unimpeachable source from Pakistan’s Ministry of Interior has recently disclosed that the ministry’s head, Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan, has sought the details of the case against Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s (MQM) chief, Altaf Hussain, and is monitoring the investigations in London against him, on charges of ordering the murder of Imran Farooq, money laundering and hate speech.

Hussain has been living in exile in London since 1991 and this is the first time that he is facing the toughest battle of his life, following the criminal investigation into the killing of Imran Farooq, one of the founding members of the MQM, who also lived in exile in London.

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Farooq spent around seven years between surfacing 1992 and his surfacing in London. He was considered a master organiser of the Karachi-based party and was very close to Hussain, along with the late Azeem Ahmad Tariq — the only chairman of the MQM, who, too, was assassinated back in 1993.

His activities were viewed as being ‘suspect’ ever since he resurfaced, and he was twice suspended by Hussain. The MQM supremo was particularly disturbed after the results of the 2002 elections when the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), led by the Jamaat-e-Islami, made inroads in the MQM electorate and some of the top MQM leaders such as Nasreen Jalil and Aftab Sheikh were defeated. Both the leaders, along with Farooq Sattar, faced temporary suspension. In 2003, Imran Farooq was suspended for not maintaining party discipline and failing to give his undivided attention to party affairs. Later, his suspension orders were withdrawn, but those who know him from his university days believe that Farooq appeared to be a different man after his return from underground politics.

In September 2010, Imran Farooq was stabbed to death as he neared his flat on Edgeware Road. The investigation conducted by the London police has yet to point fingers at Hussain as the MQM chief cannot be indicted unless there is concrete evidence against him. The stated motive behind the murder of Farooq was the latter’s alleged move to create a new party.

In September 2010, Imran Farooq was stabbed to death as he neared his flat on Edgeware Road. The investigation conducted by the London police has yet to point fingers at Hussain as the MQM chief cannot be indicted unless there is concrete evidence against him. The stated motive behind the murder of Farooq was the latter’s alleged move to create a new party.

However, more than Imran Farooq’s murder investigation, the allegations of money laundering are a major source of concern within the party.

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The MQM’s recent decision to support PML-N’s presidential candidate Mamnoon Hussain is being seen as a tactical move by its leadership to rescue the party from the challenges it is facing. The decision was taken only after an informal understanding with the PML-N was reached “through the good offices of the British,” says an analyst. PML-N leaders then made a trip to Nine-Zero to seal the deal.

When the London police raided MQM’s Edgeware offices in London and Altaf Hussain’s house in Mill Hill to find clues to Farooq’s murder, they discovered a stash of £ 400,000 of undeclared cash. The Pakistani media went to the extent of predicting Altaf Hussain’s imminent arrest. Things also took an ugly turn when BBC’s popular programme, Newsnight, aired a documentary based on these allegations. The documentary also picked up damning excerpts from Altaf Hussain’s alleged ‘hate speeches’ in which he threatened anchor persons (“If you don’t stop the lies and false allegations that damage our party’s reputation, then don’t blame me, Altaf Hussain, or the MQM, if you get killed by any of my millions of supporters”), a UK-based journalist, Azhar Javaid, and Pakistan’s rich land owners and businessmen (“If you make those allegations to my face one more time, you’ll be taking down your measurements and we’ll prepare your body bags.”)

MQM stalwart Farooq Sattar had a tough time defending these allegations on the show and said all the quotes were either taken “out of context” or intended as “a joke.”
Then there is the PTI allegation that one of their party’s most committed activists, Zahra Shahid Hussain, was gunned down outside her home by the MQM on the eve of the elections. Subsequently around 12,000 PTI supporters wrote to the British Metropolitan police, demanding that Altaf Hussain be reined in.

Viewed against this backdrop, the MQM’s recent decision to support PML-N’s presidential candidate Mamnoon Hussain is being seen as a tactical move by its leadership to rescue the party from the challenges it is facing. The decision was taken only after an informal understanding with the PML-N was reached “through the good offices of the British,” says an analyst. PML-N leaders then made a trip to Nine-Zero to seal the deal. MQM’s political rivals fear a major political fallout if Altaf Hussain is arrested or if any other serious action is taken by the British police once the investigation is concluded. Given its street power the MQM has the capacity to paralyse the city.

By joining hands with the PML-N, the MQM is also hoping to counter the outbursts of PTI chief Imran Khan who is, once again, pressing for investigations against Hussain. While in London, he held the British government responsible for the murder of Zahra Shahid Hussain and without naming Altaf Hussain, he demanded that the “British government must take action against its national.”

Its present troubles aside, the MQM continues to retain its strong urban base and strength. It has managed to win almost all of its seats in urban Sindh in the last elections, even though the PTI has cut into some of its vote bank. Also, while allying with the PML-N, it still enjoys good relations with Asif Ali Zardari.

Given the history of the MQM, they have always managed to bounce back after major setbacks, whether it was the big split within in 1991; the 1992 army operation; the 1993 murder of its chairman Azeem Ahmad Tariq; the 1994-95 police operation in which a record number of MQM activists were killed; the imposition of governor’s rule in 1998 following the murder of the former governor Hakeem Mohammad Said and the 2011 onslaught by former home minister Zulfiqar Mirza.

As stories of the MQM supremo being indicted got underway, one of the leading questions that was being asked was: Who after, Bhai?

“The Rabita Committee is there and Altaf Hussain was our leader, is our leader and will remain our leader,” remarked a senior party leader.