The Global Social Network
Here are some excerpts from Wikileaks on the "Gangs of Karachi":
US embassy cable - 09KARACHI138
SINDH - THE GANGS OF KARACHI
Origin: Consulate Karachi
Created: 2009-04-22 11:52:00
Summary: The police in Karachi are only one of several armed groups in the city, and they are probably not the most numerous or best equipped. Many neighborhoods are considered by the police to be no-go zones in which even the intelligence services have a difficult time operating. Very
few of the groups are traditional criminal gangs. Most are associated with a political party, a social movement, or terrorist activity, and their presence in the volatile ethnic mix of the world,s fourth largest city creates enormous political and governance challenges.
MQM\'s armed members, known as \"Good Friends,\" are the
largest non-governmental armed element in the city. The police estimate
MQM has ten thousand active armed members and as many as twenty-five thousand armed fighters in reserve.
This is compared to the city\'s thirty-three thousand police officers. The party operates through its 100 Sector Commanders, who take their orders directly from the party leader, Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in the United Kingdom.
Low to middle-ranked police officials acknowledge the extortion and the likely veracity of the other charges. A senior police officer said, in the past eight years alone,MQM was issued over a million arms licenses, mostly for
handguns. Post (Consulate) has observed MQM security personnel carrying numerous shoulder-fired weapons, ranging from new European
AKMs to crude AK copies, probably produced in local shops.
MQM controls the following neighborhoods in Karachi:
Gulberg, Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Korangi, Landhi, Liaquatabad, Malir, Nazimabad, New Karachi, North Nazimabad, Orangi Town, Saddar and Shah Faisal.
MQM-H (Muhajir Quami Movement-Haqiqi)
5. (S) MQM-H is a small ethnic political party that broke away from the MQM in the mid-1980s. MQM-H has its
strongholds in the Landhi, Korangi and Lines Area neighborhoods of the city. The MQM regarded these areas as
no-go zones when it was in power during the Musharraf presidency. As a condition for joining the Sindh government
in 2003, it asked that MQM-H be eliminated. The local police and Rangers were used to crack down on MQM-H, and its leaders were put behind bars. The rank and file of MQM-H found refuge in a local religious/political party, Sunni Tehrik (see para 9). The local police believe MQM-H still maintains its armed groups in the areas of Landhi and Korangi, and that the party will re-organize itself once its leadership is released from jail.
The ANP represents the ethnic Pashtuns in Karachi. The local Pashtuns do possess personal weapons, following the
tribal traditions of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP),
and there are indications they have begun to organize formal armed groups. With the onset of combat operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas in August 2008, a growing number of Pashtuns fled south to swell the Pashtun ranks of that already is the largest Pashtun city in the world. This has increased tensions between ANP and MQM.
7. (S) If rhetoric of the police and the ANP leadership is to be believed, these armed elements may be preparing to challenge MQM control of Karachi. In March, the Karachi Police Special Branch submitted a report to the Inspector General of Police in which it mentioned the presence of \"hard-line\" Pashtuns in the Sohrab Goth neighborhood. Sohrab Goth is located in the Northeast of the city.
8. (S) The report said this neighborhood was becoming a no-go
area for the police. The report went on to claim the Pashtuns are involved in drug trafficking and gun running and
if police wanted to move in the area they had to do so in civilian clothing. A senior member of the Intelligence Bureau in Karachi recently opined that the ANP would not move
against MQM until the next elections, but the police report ANP gunmen are already fighting MQM gunmen over
ST (Sunni Tehrik - Sunni Movement)
9. (S) ST is a small religious/political group with a presence in small pockets of Karachi. The group has only
managed to win a handful of council seats in local elections but militarily it is disproportionably powerful because of
the influx of MQM-H gunmen after the government crack-down on MQM-H (see above). ST has organized the party and its gunmen along the lines of MQM by dividing its areas of influence into sectors and units, with sector and unit commanders. ST and MQM have allegedly been killing each other\'s leadership since the April 2006 Nishtar Park bombing that killed most of ST\'s leadership. ST blames MQM for the attack. There appears to have been a reduction in these targeted killings since 2008.
10. (S) PPP is a political party led by, and centered on the Bhutto family. The party enjoys significant support in
Karachi, especially among the Sindhi and Baloch populations. Traditionally, the party has not run an armed wing, but the workers of the PPP do possess weapons, both licensed and unlicensed. With PPP in control of the provincial government and having an influential member in place as the Home Minister, a large number of weapons permits are currently being issued to PPP workers. A police official recently told
Post that he believes, given the volume of weapons permits being issued to PPP members, the party will soon be as
well-armed as MQM. Gangs in Lyari: Arshad Pappoo (AP) and Rahman Dakait (RD)
11. (S) AP and RD are two traditional criminal gangs that
have been fighting each other since the turn of the century in the Lyari district of Karachi. Both gangs gave their political support to PPP in the parliamentary elections. The
gangs got their start with drug trafficking in Lyari and later included the more serious crimes of kidnapping and robbery in other parts of Karachi. (Comment: Kidnapping is such a problem in the city that the Home Secretary once asked Post for small tracking devices that could be planted under
the skin of upper-class citizens and a
satellite to track the devices if they were kidnapped. End comment.)
12. (S) Each group has only about 200 hard-core armed fighters but, according to police, various people in Lyari
have around 6,000 handguns, which are duly authorized through valid weapons permits. In addition, the gangs are in
possession of a large number of unlicensed AK-47 rifles,
Rocket Propelled Grenade launchers and hand grenades. The weapons are carried openly and used against each other as
well as any police or Rangers who enter the area during security operations. During police incursions, the gang
members maintain the tactical advantage by using the narrow streets and interconnected houses. There are some parts of Lyari that are inaccessible to law enforcement agencies...
13. (S) A Senior IB officer recently opined to Post that \"All Pashtuns in Karachi are not Taliban, but all Taliban are
Pashtuns.\" The size, scope and nature of \"Talibanization\" and true Taliban terrorist activity in Karachi is difficult
to pin down, but Post has increasingly received anecdotes about women, even in more upscale neighborhoods, being
accosted by bearded strangers and told to wear headscarves in public.
14. (S) There has not been a terrorist attack against U.S. interests in Karachi since 2006. There are several theories
about Taliban activity in Karachi and why they have not staged an attack in so long. One school of thought has it
that MQM is too powerful and will not allow the Pashtuns to operate in Karachi, and this, combined with the ease of
operating elsewhere in Pakistan, makes Karachi an undesirable venue. Another line of thinking claims Karachi is too
valuable as a hiding place and place to raise money.
15. (S) In April, the police in Karachi arrested Badshah Din Mahsud, from their Most Wanted Terrorist list, known as the Red Book. It is alleged he was robbing banks in Karachi at the behest of Baitullah Mehsud, from the NWFP, and the money was being used to finance terrorist activity. There is a large body of threat reporting which would seem to indicate the equipment and personnel for carrying out attacks are currently in place in Karachi. In April, Karachi CID told Post they had arrested five men from NWFP who were building VBIEDs and planed to use them in attacks against Pakistani government buildings; including the CID office located behind the US Consulate. CID also claimed they had reliable information that suicide vests had been brought to Karachi.
16. (S) Comment: The importance of maintaining stability in Karachi cannot be over-emphasized. Traditionally, Karachi was at the center of lawlessness, criminal activity, and politically-inspired violence in Pakistan. But with the
security situation in the rest of the country deteriorating, the megalopolis has become something of an island of
stability. Nevertheless, it still has a number of well-armed political and religious factions and the potential to explode
into violent ethnic and religious conflict given the wrong circumstances.
17. (S) The PPP,s decision to include MQM in coalition governments in Sindh Province and in the federal government
has helped preclude a return to the PPP-MQM violence of the 1990,s. But the potential for MQM-ANP conflict is growing as Pashtuns challenge Mohajir political dominance and vie for control of key economic interests, such as the lucrative trucking industry. Any sign that political violence is returning to Karachi, especially if it is related to the
growing strength of conservative Pashtun \"Taliban,\" will send extremely negative shockwaves through the society and likely accelerate the flight from Pakistan of the business and intellectual elite of the society. End comment.
FAKAN ( US Consul General Stephen Fakan)
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Paramilitary forces raided the offices of the main political party in the sprawling port city of Karachi, seizing weapons and arresting some of its activists, officials and party members said.
Members of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement said three of the party’s supporters were shot, one fatally, during the operation Wednesday morning. The party headquarters, known as “Nine Zero,” is protected by barriers erected by the party, with armed personnel manning checkpoints and watchtowers around the area.
The paramilitary Rangers force, which is run under the command of serving army officers, wouldn’t immediately comment on the casualties of the raid.
Col. Tahir Mahmood, a spokesman for the Rangers, said the raid was launched after receiving intelligence about the presence of wanted individuals at the MQM headquarters, including a man sentenced to death over the killing of a journalist. Following the raid, Rangers showed reporters the weapons they said were seized from the headquarters complex, including dozens of automatic rifles.
Karachi, a city of more than 20 million people, is plagued by gang violence. The gangs, which include jihadist groups linked to al Qaeda, have turned parts of the city into so-called no-go areas that even police hesitate to enter.
“This was a ‘no-go’ area, and we have a mandate to end no-go areas,” said Col. Mahmood.
After the raid, large parts of Karachi shut down, with shops and businesses pulling down their shutters, and buses curtailing their routes.
At MQM headquarters, hundreds of angry party supporters gathered, chanting, “How many mohajirs will you kill?”
The MQM draws its following from mohajirs, Muslims who migrated to Pakistan following the partition of British India in 1947 and who form the largest ethnic group in the city. It says it has 100,000 members, and it drew nearly 2.5 million votes in the 2013 election.
The MQM is widely accused of violence, extortion and running an armed militia, allegations the party denies, although it acknowledges that individual members may be involved in criminality.
At Khursheed Memorial Hall, an administrative building for the party, the apparent aftermath of the raid was still visible. Filing cabinets appeared to have been ransacked, computer screens were smashed, furniture was broken and pictures of the party’s leader, Altaf Hussain, had been pulled down.
Mr. Hussain lives in self-imposed exile in London. He was arrested last year by British police amid a probe into alleged money laundering, but he was later released and hasn’t been charged with any crime there.
The MQM is an avowedly secular political party that describes itself as a bastion of opposition to radical groups such as the Pakistani Taliban. “We have to defend ourselves—we have threats from the Taliban, from terrorists, that’s why these barriers are here,” said Faisal Subzwari, a provincial lawmaker for the MQM. “They took away all our weapons. We provided no resistance.”
Pakistan Civil Society; Rangers at MQM HQ "90"; India's ban on "Dau... from WBT TV on Vimeo.
#Karachi operation: Security forces to target militant wings of all parties #MQM #ST #PPP #ANP #JI #Pakistan #ASWJ
Saulat Mirza name names before execution by arynews
Wall Street Journal on Saulat Mirza's video confession:
KARACHI, Pakistan — The hot topic on Pakistani social media today isn’t just cricket: It’s one of the country’s most famous death row inmates.
Saulat Ali Khan, known as Saulat Mirza, is a former activist for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the country’s fourth-largest political party. He was sentenced to death by a court in 1999 for assassinating a top government bureaucrat, his driver and bodyguard in 1997 in Karachi, but hours before the sentence was to be carried out, he won a Bollywood gangster-movie-style reprieve: Hours after prison officials confirmed he was to be hanged in a prison in remote Balochistan province, he was given a temporary stay of execution by the President of Pakistan Mamnoon Hussain.
Late Wednesday, #saulatmirza was already trending on Twitter in Pakistan, despite the ongoing Cricket World Cup. The reason?
The release of a videotaped confession, in which Mr. Khan said that murders had been carried out on the order of MQM’s London-based founder, Altaf Hussain, and other senior party leaders.
In the aftermath of the release of this allegation, Mr. Hussain issued a strong denial, saying he had never met Mr. Mirza and that the convicted murderer had been removed from the party in 1994.
But the Mr. Khan’s revelations remained the focus of television talk shows until late Wednesday night.
Local police officials said Mr. Khan had also been charged in 20 separate murder cases, including the killing of a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agent in Karachi in 1995. They added that he is suspected to have been involved in at least 58 political murders, with the victims being principally police and security officials.
Officials, speaking privately, said Mr. Khan’s sentence in the murder of Shahid Hamid, then-managing director of Karachi’s then state-owned electricity company – now the privately held K Electric – had stood because Mr. Hamid’s widow, also a senior government official, and his son Omar Shahid, a police officer and author of the internationally acclaimed thriller ‘The Prisoner’ refused to succumb to pressure from MQM party for a lighter sentence.
Nevertheless, officials said, the death penalty was not carried out for 11 years, even after the Supreme Court had denied an appeal against Mr. Khan’s conviction in 2004. It was only the recent lifting of the moratorium on hangings by the government after the Peshawar massacre of school children by the Taliban in December, that Mr. Mirza’s name appeared on the top of the list of those to be executed.
Omar Shahid Hamid started off as a cop, and his decision to become one was deeply personal: When he was still in his teens, his father, a senior civil servant in Pakistan, was assassinated. "In the subsequent police investigation," he tells me via email, "I saw close up the good and bad points of the police in a country like Pakistan, where, due to a lack of institutions, what individuals did, good or bad, had a much greater impact on people's lives, than say, a cop working in London or New York. I joined the police because I felt the potential difference I could make was substantial."
Hamid went on to serve on Karachi's police force for 13 years. He's been on a sabbatical for the past four years, due to threats made against him by the Pakistani Taliban, and he's used those years to pen an exhilarating crime novel, The Prisoner, set in Karachi. Inspired by the real life kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002, it centers on an American journalist who's gone missing, and the police and intelligence agencies who are trying desperately to find him as the Americans breathe down their necks.
Hamid's portrayal of the city, the police, and the byzantine political play is nuanced and sophisticated. Karachi is Pakistan's largest and most vibrant city, and he lays it bare as only someone who has lived and worked there could. Hamid says the point of the book was "to portray an image of the police that was realistic. Are they corrupt? Yes often. Are they used as pawns in bigger political games? Absolutely. But despite all of these restrictions and impositions, are they ordinary people who sometimes do extraordinary things? Absolutely."
The Prisoner contains some thinly veiled references to real people and political parties in Pakistan. You go to some lengths to explain their motivations and the moral ambiguities of their world, but you don't exactly flatter them, either. You were attacked on more than one occasion when you were in the police force — and yet you've chosen to write a book that has probably made no one happy. Why did you decide to do it?
It was interesting that when the book came out in Pakistan, the reaction from many people was of amazement. There were people who, despite having lived in the city for years, had no inkling of the world that existed. So overall, the feedback I have received has been one of enlightenment. Many people also said it helped to give them a more nuanced view of the trials and tribulations of ordinary cops and why they sometimes have to do what they do. I decided to write the book because I felt that when I joined the police, the police was a body with so many fascinating stories, but no one to tell them, because the world of the police was very fraternal and tight, so outsiders had no ingress into the kinds of internal stories we possessed, while I, as an insider, had a unique perspective to share those stories with the outside world.
I was particularly intrigued by your protagonist, Constantine D'Souza, who's a Christian. How did you choose him? Christians only make up a tiny percentage in what is an overwhelmingly Muslim country.
I thought making one of the protagonists Christian would be an interesting plot line. In my time in the service, I knew several Christian police officers, and I found it fascinating to think about how they were perceived and how they perceived the culture of the society and the police. The most interesting insight was that Christians in the police did not necessarily come across as an oppressed minority.
SP Chaudhry Aslam Khan (portrayed as Akbar Khan in The Prisoner by Omar Shahid Hamid) was one of the several officers serving police in the 1990s when political activists — almost all associated with the then Muhajir Qaumi Movement — were killed in police encounters that were later documented as ‘extra-judicial killings’ and still described by the party as ‘state terrorism’.
The brutal trend, with then interior minister Naseerullah Babar as its official in charge, led to end of the second Benazir Bhutto government in 1996. Extrajudicial killings in Karachi and corruption scandals were cited as major reasons by then president Farooq Khan Leghari for dissolving the assemblies.
Most of the officers associated with the ‘Karachi operation’ have been assassinated one by one over the past decade. But SP Khan was promoted as deputy superintendent of police in 1998 and his work earned him the rank of superintendent of police in 2005. But controversies dogged his professional growth.
In 2006, the SP was put behind bars for staging an encounter, as head of the Lyari task force, to kill notorious dacoit Mashooq Brohi. Aslam Khan and his colleagues spent 16 months in jail before being released in Dec 2007 on bail granted by the Sindh High Court.
The 2006 memories of the Brohi case were not over when he came under the spotlight again in 2009 for no different reason. As an SP for Investigation East-II, Mr Khan’s team killed the alleged Lyari gangster, Rahman Dakait, and his three associates in an alleged encounter.
After hitting headlines for surviving an attack in Sept 2011 on his Defence Society residence, he was in the limelight again in April 2012 after police laid siege to Lyari in order to trap criminals.
Police called off the ‘Lyari operation’ after a week without any success for SP Khan and his team. Twelve policemen lost their lives.
The 47-year-old officer, as documented in the official record, SP Khan seemed as calm as on any other day after every shootout with militants and gangsters and even attack on his life. Called as ‘Karachi version of Dirty Harry’ and ‘Pakistan’s toughest cop’ by foreign media, SP Khan survived several attacks on his life before falling at last on Thursday. But the number of such attempts always remained a mystery.
“Maybe it’s five,” shared one of his colleagues before taking a pause and said again: “But wait. It’s nine, I think. But you see it hardly matters. I think he only shared or remembered those which left him with loss to some extent one way or the other. Like he survived but his guards were killed or he remained unhurt. It’s his daily business and he had been facing it since 1995.”
SP Khan never remained out of focus. For media, police hierarchy and the political circles he was always in. In Dec 1998 he arrested MQM activist Saulat Mirza, describing him as a prize catch from Karachi airport minutes after he returned from Bangkok.
Mirza is now facing death sentence for killing Karachi Electric Supply Company (KESC) Malik Shahid Hamid in 1997 and admitted killing a number of people, including a Pakistani employee of the United States Drug Enforcement Agency in 1995.
Interestingly, a few years later SP Khan and the only son of the slain chief of the power utility Omer Shahid Hamid became colleagues and close aides to serve together at Lyari Task Force and the CID.
The Prisoner by Omar Shahid Hamid
THE narrative is set in Karachi, the commercial capital of Pakistan. Prior to Christmas, an American journalist is kidnapped from the posh locality of Zamzama. The kidnapping happens to have taken place just a few days ahead of the American President's visit. The kidnappers plan to post a video of the journalist's execution on Christmas day.
The book is racy and potrays the dark belly of Karachi.The writer, an ex-policeman, uses his wide experience to churn out a great debut novel. The book is very well written and is action packed. Constantine D'souza, a cop whose name is always mispronounced as Consendine holds the position of Superintendent of Prisons, Karachi. The Central Prison is a hub of activity with its varied inmates of Jihadis, terrorists, political activitists, murderers and petty thieves.
A call fron Colonel Tarkeen of the intelligence agencies sends Constantine into a tizzy. Akbar Khan, a daring police officer who has been imprisoned has a high-profile visitor. Khan has been languishing in prison where he leads a spartan life, meets no one but the tableeghis. He also happens to be an officer with the best resources. Akbar Khan tried to get rid of the social scum but somehow an operation backfired and he found himself in prison.
The book provides a rather vivid description of the volatile atmosphere of the country run by an invisible don who remains hidden in America. The don is a shadowy figure who pulls the strings in Pakistan. The story revolves around shady deals, kidnappings and the underworld mafia. It is a narrative about a city ruled by the United Front with its ward bosses who have no scruples. The reader meets a myriad characters who seem near to everyday life. Maqsood Mahr is the epitome of corruption and has "always been honest about his dishonesty", the impeccable Major Rommel, Colonel Tarkeen who knows how to play his cards right.
The book has its funny moments and the quirky sense of humour of the writer is evident when the reader comes across the nick names of characters like Home Minister Pakora, senior cop Dr Death and ward boss Ateeq Tension. One can feel the strain between the two agencies — the Kaaley Gate wallahas and the Bleak House wallahs — and woe betide on anyone who crosses them. The Prisoner highlights the culture of the police and their everyday language which seems to be laced with the choicest of abuses. The game of wits played between the politicians and cops throughout the book is very enjoyable.
The novel picks up tempo as one proceeds and Akbar Khan comes across as an intelligent officer with excellent bargaining skills. The book which began so well has a lukewarm ending and does not live up to the expectations of the reader. Rather, it loses steam towards the end. This interesting read seems like a treatise on police culture and paid postings.
The incidents seem authentic and the reader would not like to put the book down. The plot thickens as a chief minister's brother is shot at. The Americans send in their team and believe that technology will help rescue the journalist. Political tactics, overbearing bosses, money that talks, bootlicking staff — this book has it all. Whether the American journalist is freed or meets a sad end is for the reader to discover. It is an action-packed book enjoyed from beginning to end. A highly recommended read.
Omar Shahid Hamid, author of The Prisoner, served with Pakistan's Karachi police for 12 years, during which time he was targeted by various terrorist groups and criminal outfits. He received his Masters in Criminal Justice Policy from the London School of Economics, and his Masters in Law from University College London.
When is a work of fiction actually a vivid portrayal of reality? Omar Shahid Hamid, a Karachi police officer, blurs the borders between fact and fiction with “The Prisoner,” a chilling novel about cops and the criminal underworld in the megacity city he serves.
The characters in the book are barely-veiled depictions of real-life people and organizations in one of the world’s most dangerous cities. Mr. Hamid said he chose to write fiction because he couldn’t have gotten away with a work of non-fiction that laid bare the merger of politics, gangsters, jihadists and the police that makes Karachi a city of such corruption and violence.
“Karachi’s institutions have become so weak, including the police, that you have militias taking over different parts of the city,” said Mr. Hamid, a senior anti-terrorism police officer, who has been on sabbatical leave to write the book. “This is what I call the Beirutification of Karachi.”
“The Prisoner” exposes the putrid, bloody, underbelly of Karachi, as only a police officer could know it. Bent cops, greedy, sex-hungry politicians, and criminal syndicates prey upon Karachi’s population in the book in a world so dark that readers will come away terrified.
Anyone who knows Pakistan will recognize groups and characters based on well-known police officers, intelligence operatives, prominent political families, al Qaeda and especially the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which is allegedly connected to the city’s biggest and most established criminal network.
The MQM insists that any of its members involved in criminal activity do not have the support of the party.
Mr. Hamid knows people connected to the group all too well. In the late 1990s, his father, a senior bureaucrat, was assassinated in Karachi, after resisting the MQM. A rough, hard-talking police officer called Chaudhry Aslam came to his house at the time to tell the family that he had caught the killer, a self-confessed member of the MQM.
The young Mr. Hamid knew back then that he wanted to join the police–an unusual career choice for someone educated abroad like him–he even opted for the tough Crime Investigation Department where Mr. Aslam served.
“I saw the ability of the police to act as a transformational body,” says Mr. Hamid. “And I saw how one man can move mountains.”
A character based on Mr. Aslam–who was one of Karachi’s most feared police officers before he was assassinated in an explosion last month–is one of the heroes of the novel. The moral dilemma of tough police officers that have to take the law into their own hands and sometimes even execute criminals is one of the themes of the book.
“I don’t advocate extra-judicial executions,” says Mr. Hamid. “But our courts are unwilling to take responsibility.”
Mr. Hamid’s book was first published in India late last year, an increasingly common route for Pakistani writers. He will be launching the book in Pakistan and speaking at theKarachi Literature Festival which starts Friday.
From NY Times:
The news media, which previously treated the party (MQM) with caution, has aired criticism of the party. (Among those arrested was a Muttahida supporter charged with the murder of Wali Khan Babar, a prominent television journalist who was shot dead in his car in 2011.) And in the city’s political back rooms, senior Muttahida officials have begun to quietly consider the possibility of a new leader — an unthinkable idea until recently.
Continue reading the main story
“The fear factor is gone,” said a senior party official who, like several others, spoke on the condition of anonymity out of fear of retribution.
But the upheaval has also brought worries of new instability in a city that is awash with armed groups. Noting that Karachi is in a “state of flux,” the newspaper Dawn warned in an editorial this month that “when the chips fall, they may not do so without considerable violence.”
The moves against Muttahida are part of a broader effort to stem a cycle of political and criminal violence that has left Karachi prone to Taliban infiltration in recent years. Militants disrupted election campaigning in 2013, leading to a crackdown that has broken several Taliban cells, according to police officials and ethnic Pashtun community leaders.
Now the authorities have turned their attention to the armed wings of the city’s political parties, of which Muttahida is by far the largest.
But few are writing off Mr. Hussain, a wily political player with a long record of survival, just yet.
For much of the 1990s, Mr. Hussain’s supporters waged a street war against the security forces in Karachi, only to ultimately re-emerge stronger than ever.
Since then, he has enjoyed unquestioned support from the city’s Mohajir population — mostly Urdu-speaking families that migrated from India in 1947 — by playing on their sense of grievance at the hands of local ethnic groups, creating a magnetic cult of personality in the process.
This time, however, the challenges also come from within. Mr. Hussain’s stewardship of the party has become increasingly erratic recently, several officials said.
In addresses to party rallies in Karachi, delivered over the phone from London (his usual mode of communication with the party faithful), he frequently appears to be under the influence of alcohol, they said.
During one lengthy tirade on March 30, Mr. Hussain publicly resigned his leadership and urged his followers to take up charity work, only to reappoint himself hours later.
“We never know if it’s going to be happy hour or sad hour,” said one senior official who privately advocated a change in leadership and spoke on the condition of anonymity.
To many, it seems clear that the Pakistani military, which has a long history of meddling in politics, is trying to engineer a change in leadership. Journalists say the videotaped accusations from Mr. Mirza, the death-row convict, bore the hallmarks of a military intelligence operation.
In political circles, the army has started to take informal soundings about a possible successor to Mr. Hussain, the same party official said.
“They want to keep the M.Q.M., but without Altaf or anyone directly associated with violence,” he said.
But experts warn that such a strategy is fraught with danger. “If the M.Q.M. implodes, what will happen to Karachi?” said Laurent Gayer, author of “Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City,” a recent book on Karachi. “It seems that few people are thinking about the consequences of a militarized, fragmented party.”
Mr. Hussain looked unsteady as he pushed through reporters at the entrance to the London police station on Tuesday. He has said a large sum of money found at his house — about $650,000, party officials say — came from legitimate political donations.