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)
Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant For Gangster Politicians of Karachi
MQM Worried By Karachi's Demographic Changes
Karachi Tops World's Largest Cities
Karachi Tops Mumbai in Stock Performace
Eleven Days in Karachi
Pakistan Most Urbanized in South Asia
Karachi: The Urban Frontier
Do Asia's Urban Slums Offer Hope?
Orangi is Not Dharavi
Climate Change Could Flood Karachi Coastline
Karachi Fourth Cheapest For Expats
Karachi City Government
Karachi Dreams Big
Pakistan Census 2011
Jinnah's Vision of Pakistan
High Cost of Failure to Aid Flood Victims
World Memon Organization
Urbanization in Pakistan Highest in South Asia
Here's a Daily Beast Op Ed by former British PM Gordon Brown on TTP attacks against schoolgirls and teacher in Pakistan:
As pupils gathered early on Saturday to receive exam results, grenades were hurled into the Baldia town school in Karachi, causing carnage. Principal Abdur Rasheed died on the spot. The perpetrators are thought to be from TPP, a Taliban terrorist sect, as their campaign of violence against girls education moves from the tribal areas into Pakistan's largest city.
The latest attack follows the murder earlier this week in the Khyber tribal district of Shahnaz Nazli, a 41-year-old teacher gunned down in front of one of her children only 200 meters from the all-girls school where she taught. But this time the wave of terror attacks – orchestrated by opponents of girls' education – is provoking a domestic and international response, a groundswell of public revulsion similar to that which followed the attempted assassination of Malala Yousefvai, who was also shot simply for wanting girls to go to school.
Today, on top of a a petition now circulating on www.educationenvoy.org calling for a cessation of violence against teachers who are defending the right of girls to go to school, a scholarship fund in honor of the slain Shahnaz Nazli is being announced. Education International, the world teachers organization with 30 million members, has said that the scholarship memorial to Shahnaz will support Pakistan teachers and students victimized simply because of their support for girls' schooling.
The petition and the memorial signal a fight back against attempts to ban girls’ education, and come in the wake of the intervention of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who, in a special communique, has spoken out against the shooting of Shahnaz and given his personal support to teachers persecuted for their advocacy of girls’ education.
This week's attacks are, however, a stark reminder to the world of the persistence of threats, intimidation, shootings, arson attacks and sometimes even murder that are the Taliban’s weapons in a war against girls’ opportunity.
Last October, shocked by the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai and pressured by a petition signed by three million people, the Pakistani government agreed for the first time to legislate compulsory free education and provided stipends for three million children.
Now authorities in Pakistan are under international pressure to deploy their security services to ensure the safety and protection of teachers and girls trying to go to school.
Last October’s demonstrations were a spontaneous response from girls who identified with Malala’s cause as she fought for her life in Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital. Now these girls are being joined by a high-profile campaign by teachers themselves, determined, despite the threat to their lives, to stand up for girls' education and to take their campaign even to the most dangerous of places
But as the forthcoming teachers’ initiative and the the UN Secretary General’s vocal support both demonstrate, the voices in favor of these basic rights for girls cannot any longer be silenced. And because this is a movement that is now being forged at the grassroots by girls demanding their human rights and by teachers organizing in support of them, 2013, which has started with so many violent attacks on girls schools, can still become the year when the cause of universal girls education becomes unstoppable.
Here's a Dawn report about the observations of a Frenchman studying Karachi:
ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: Political violence, ethnic divide and militant organisations being patronised by political parties is turning Karachi into the new Beirut, according to a visiting French political scientist.
Laurent Gayer, a French political scientist, who is writing a book “Karachi: Ordered Disorder and the Struggle for the City,” that will be published by Hurst and Oxford University Press this year, made these observations during a lecture here on Wednesday.
He said though the metropolitan city was facing multiple menaces in the form of lawlessness, targeted killings, sectarian strife for quite some time, de-regularisation of Bhatta mafias within political parties and entry of new competitors in the arena had made the life of the city’s industrial community simply hellish.
Quoting his interviews with some people belonging to the business community of Karachi, Mr Gayer said although they had been paying protection money for the last two decades, coercion for money from more than half a dozen entities had become simply unbearable.
Many of them (businessmen) are planning to shift their business either to Middle Eastern countries or Bangladesh, the researcher quoted them as saying.
In his findings, the researcher also likened Karachi with Mumbai in terms of social leadership, where local political parties had their fully armed militant wings.
But the nature of violence increased with the influx of arms from the Afghan war, he said.
Karachi city at the moment was awash with the most modern weaponry, which political parties across the board were using against each other, said the writer.
According to the French political scientist, violence in Karachi was not existential but instrumental.
Mr Gayer said the proliferation of political armed groups started in 2007, linking it with the involvement of Awami National Party (ANP) and Aman Committees of the PPP.
“The way how violence is transforming is very difficult for people to handle. Weapons are used indiscriminately in which civilians lose their lives, the last few years saw extremely important transformation of violence,” he remarked.
Karachi’s situation, he said, had become more violent after the involvement of Sunni Tehrik and Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), which besides fighting for its own turf, were also pitched against each other.
The MQM, which was initially more focused against the ANP, was now facing a new challenge in the form of Taliban — found in various pockets of the city, said the writer.
The Taliban, according to the author had been using the city, not only for generation of money through kidnapping for ransom but also for recuperation of its injured and tired members.
Analysing the changing demography of the city, the French political scientist argued that the Sindhi population was increasing and the Urdu speaking community were no more in the majority.
“The pre-violence history of Karachi shows that clustering of Karachi happened after shifting of people from mixed areas but groupings started on the basis of ethnic, linguistic and sectarian basis. Hegemony of MQM is increasingly under threat which it is wrongly trying to project as Talibanisation of the city” he underlined.
During the question-answer session, Mr Gayer said that since the government machinery was directly involved in extortion, killings and other criminal acts, there was absolutely no chance of any improvement in governance of the city in the near future.
Mr Gayer has also collaborated with Mr Christophe Jaffrelot in two books, which include “Armed Militias of South Asia: Fundamentalists, Maoists, and Separatists” and “Muslims in Indian Cities: Trajectories of Marginalisation,” both published by Hurst/Columbia University Press..
Here's The Economist on gangs of Lyari in Karachi:
CIVILIANS armed with rocket-propelled grenades and AK-47s firing at police in armoured personnel carriers are not images associated with the urban hearts of commercial capitals. But Karachi is no ordinary city. Earlier this month its crime-infested quarter of Lyari, a sprawling network of alleyways housing 1m people, saw battles that pitted police against a powerful local gang. In one scene locals flattened a carrier's tyres with gunfire. Then they kept firing at the stationary vehicle, killing an officer inside.
The 31 people who were killed, in addition to five policemen, were mainly innocents caught in the crossfire and included a seven-year-old. For a week residents were besieged. They had little access to food, water or power, as shops shut down and the battle had damaged infrastructure. Then a defeated government called the operation off. The police promised to return after 48 hours, but never showed up again. A senior police official was close to tears when he explained that the gangsters wielded weapons that law-enforcers did not know they possessed.
The Lyari violence highlights the complicated relationship between crime and politics in Karachi. Political parties are organised along ethnic or sectarian lines, and represent the city's Urdu-speakers, Sindhis, Baloch, Pashtuns and Barelvi Sunnis. In turf wars over neighbourhoods, they attack each other's activists and ordinary folk alike. (This week indiscriminate firing on a Sindhi rally killed 11 people.) When deaths exceed a handful a day, the commercial capital grinds to a halt. It is this violence, rather than Islamist extremism, that holds Karachi hostage.
Political parties coexist with criminal gangs, tacitly supporting some and actually controlling others. Lyari's dominant gangsters, the People's Aman Committee (PAC), have traditionally lent their support to the country's ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP). Yet police appear to have launched the Lyari operation because some members of the ruling party had developed a rivalry with elements of the PAC. The rundown district has long been a bastion of the PPP, which had put up with or worked with Lyari gangsters for decades. But its neglect of the area has strengthened the PAC, especially once the gang started providing social services. “This operation was political victimisation,” claims Zafar Baloch, the racket's second-in-command. “The people of Lyari have supported the PPP for 40 years, but when we spoke out against the lack of development here we were targeted.”
Karachi politics plays out at the expense of civilian lives. It did not hurt that the police operation would have pleased the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a coalition partner, at a time when opposition parties are campaigning for the resignation of the prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani. The MQM (also involved in extortion in Karachi) complained that the government was targeting its people while letting the PAC get away with crime.
But perhaps what makes the Lyari operation typical of Karachi was how, just as it was escalating into a policing and humanitarian disaster, it suddenly came to a halt. Since then the PAC has not retaliated. Perhaps some unpublicised bargain has been struck. If so, that would be in line with the usual pattern of violence in the city. Karachi manages to hold together because bouts of brutal, though contained, violence are interspersed with dealmaking and calm. Imran Ayub, a journalist on the Karachi beat, thinks the PAC and the government will strike a bargain that preserves the PPP's Lyari constituency despite this disastrous operation. “This was no final showdown”, he says. In the context of Karachi's violence, it is sobering to think what a final showdown would look like.
Here's a Daily Times Op on MQM Ed by Dr. Arif Alvi:
I’m Urdu speaking, my grandparents made a lot of sacrifices and migrated to Karachi, Pakistan, from India.
Karachi was a city of lights until nearly 30 years back when MQM started showing its true face. I will tell you how MQM works and I have experienced all of this myself. This is a very well-managed organisation, which works under a tight command and control mechanism. They have divided Karachi into a number of sectors; each sector is divided into units. The first tier is called the unit. There are MQM units in every nook and corner of Karachi. Every apartment complex has one unit, and nearly one in every 500 houses there is a unit. The units report to a particular sector under which they come. Each unit has a unit in-charge and other proper posts. As these guys live among us, they know each and every house and shop that comes under their supervision. The unit in-charge literally controls whatever goes within the jurisdiction of his unit. From cable persons reporting to him to the SHO of that area; everyone obeys that unit in-charge.
They snatch mobiles, get bhata from shops, get their students cheating in exams, confiscate hides on Eidul Azha and collect fitrana on Eidul Fitar, etc. The collections from units go into millions and collection from Karachi goes into billions. The units report and submit their loot to the sectors. Each unit in-charge has to sit in his sector on a frequent basis from where they get instructions. The sectors report to Nine Zero (90 is the address of the house of Altaf Hussain in Azizabad Karachi); this is the headquarters of the MQM. This is the reason why within minutes they can jam Karachi, as they just need to make one call from 90. The instructions go to sectors where they call units in-charge who have sufficient arms and ammunition. No Karachiite can stand in front of them, as they easily, and without mercy, kill. If they want to threaten someone, they write on their house wall “Jo Qaid ka ghaddaar hai woh mout ka haqdaar hai” (anyone who defies the ‘leader’ is liable to death).
Following in their footsteps, other parties, such as ANP, Aman committee of the PPP and Sunni Tehreek, now are doing the same. Sometime fighting starts over whose units will control the area. Karachi is a goldmine and everyone wants it. The people of Karachi, who are very patriotic, have to live in a constant fear. They cannot even carry a decent cell-phone in this city. They get looted at ATM machines and believe me that the people do not even decorate their houses nowadays during weddings, as they are afraid to come in the eyes of these bandits. Even now and then, there are strikes; children cry during the night due to gunfire, if a call is not for a strike, the call is for “Youm-e-Sog” (day of mourning), which in fact is another name for strike. One cannot imagine what Karachiites have to go through daily. One even gets afraid driving a car when a motorcycle passes nearby. The real disappointment is that everyone knows this, as this is so clear. ....
Here's a <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/01/us-pakistan-extortion-idUSBRE9601E420130701">Reuters' report</a> on political parties running extortion rackets in Karachi:
<i>One afternoon a stranger called at Muhammad Faizanullah's stationery shop in Karachi, Pakistan's commercial capital, and wordlessly handed the man behind the counter two items: a piece of paper with a phone number scrawled on it, and a bullet.
"The letter contained a demand for 200,000 Pakistani rupees ($2,000)," Faizanullah, 20, said. "The man said 'Just call this number and pay the amount, otherwise the bullet is meant for you.'"
Businesses in Karachi are facing a surge in extortion demands from criminal gangs, forcing many owners to delay new investment or to relocate their families to escape the sense of insecurity gripping the urban heart of Pakistan's economy.
Karachi traders say paying extortion has long been part of the cost of doing business in Karachi.
The police say thugs working for the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the dominant political party in Karachi, are the biggest extortion menace in the city.
The police have also linked other political parties to extortion, although the MQM and other parties in Karachi repeatedly deny any involvement.
In the past year, the rules of the game have changed as competing political parties, militant groups and criminal entrepreneurs intent on challenging MQM's grip on Karachi have expanded their extortion rackets to fund ever deadlier turf wars, police officials say.
The number of killings in Karachi jumped to more than 2,300 in 2012 from 1,700 the previous year. More than 1,400 murders have already been recorded since the start of this year. The increasing death toll has made it easier for gangs to coerce people into paying money, although there have been few reports of extortion-related killings.
"The extortion racket in Karachi has become an industry," said senior police officer Niaz Ahmed Khosa. "There are around 50 no-go areas in Karachi, which police can not enter. Most of the extortion rackets and other crime are being generated from these population pockets."
The police blame much of the increase in extortion on a criminal gang known as the People's Aman Committee (PAC), based in the district of Lyari, one of the police no-go areas, and which they say is expanding into new parts of the city. The gang, the police say, is linked to the Pakistan People's Party, which ruled Pakistan until its defeat at May general elections.
BBC2 Newsnight documentary on MQM and Altaf Hussain's money launderting and threats of violence against opponents and investigations into Imran Farooq murder
Here's a Guardian report on MQM Chief Altaf Hussain:
Pakistan's most vibrant, vivacious and popular 24-hour news channel, Geo TV, generally has little difficulty recruiting staff. Its headquarters are in Karachi, Pakistan's so called "city of dreams" – a massive, sprawling conurbation with 20 million residents seeking a better life. And yet there was one vacancy recently that Geo TV could not fill. The channel wanted a lookalike for its popular satirical show, in which actors play the parts of the country's leading politicians. It was a job offering instant stardom and good money. And not a single person in Karachi was willing to do it.
The man Geo TV sought to satirise was Altaf Hussain, the leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). And the reason no one applied was the fear that if Altaf Hussain were unamused by the performance, the actor playing him would be murdered.
It's difficult to know how many murder cases have been registered against Altaf Hussain, but perhaps the most authoritative number was released in 2009 when the then Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf implemented his National Reconciliation Order, granting most of the country's senior politicians an amnesty. One of the biggest beneficiaries was Hussain, against 72 cases were dropped, including 31 allegations of murder. The MQM rejects all the murder charges lodged against Hussain.
Right from the start the police raids in the investigation have produced rich material. Shortly after the 2010 murder the police found a significant number of papers stashed in Farooq's home. Some of the documents gave credence to the confessions made by a number of suspected MQM militants in Karachi. Repeatedly, MQM activists there had told the Pakistani authorities they were trained in India. Asked on numerous occasions over a period of several weeks about its relationship with the MQM, Indian government officials have failed to make any statement on the matter. Recent police raids have turned up £150,000 at the party's Edgware's offices and £250,000 at Hussain's house in Mill Hill.
The police say they are making significant progress in the Farooq murder case and have an ever-clearer understanding of what they believe was a conspiracy to kill him. Their investigation, however, is complicated by the fact that the MQM has supporters deep within the Pakistani state who want to protect it, and more cynical actors such as Pakistan's main intelligence agency, the ISI, which want to control it.
As Hussain suggests in the letter, British interest in the MQM is largely driven by the perception that the party offers a defence against jihadis. But there is more to it than that. The MQM is British turf: Karachi is one of the few places left on earth in which the Americans let Britain take the lead. The US consulate in Karachi no longer runs active intelligence gathering operations in the city. The British still do. When it comes to claiming a place at the top table of international security politics – London's relationship with the MQM is a remaining toehold.
And there's something else. The FCO's (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) most important currency is influence. Successive Pakistani governments, when they are not demanding Hussain's extradition, have included his parliamentary bloc in various coalition governments. From the FCO's point of view, it's a great source of access. Right on their doorstep, in London, they have a man with ministers in the Pakistani government...
Here's a Guardian report on London Police investigations into Altaf Husain:
The MQM's most vocal critic today is cricketer-turned-playboy-turned-Islamist-politician Imran Khan. In 2007, portraying himself as the man who dared to confront even the most entrenched political interests, Khan paid a visit to the Metropolitan police in London to hand over, he claimed, evidence of Hussain's wrongdoing. Apparently unimpressed with the quality of that evidence, the police did not bring any charges and Khan let the issue drop. But in May this year when one of his best-known party activists in Karachi, Zahra Shahid Hussain, was shot down outside her home, Khan openly accused the MQM of her murder. Thousands of his social media-savvy supporters were encouraged to complain to the British police. More than 12,000 did so and the police responded by, for the first time, formally investigating Altaf Hussain's London activities.
There are a number of strands to the Met's inquiries. First there is the issue of whether the MQM leader is using his London base to incite violence in Pakistan. In assessing that, the police have a huge amount of material to sift through, much of it online. At his birthday party in 2009, for example, he regaled his guests with a remark aimed at Pakistan's rich landowners and businessmen: "You've made big allegations against the MQM. 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."
Because he is in London, Hussain addresses rallies in Karachi over the telephone. Crowds gather to listen to his voice through loudspeakers. In one such speech he had this message for TV anchors: "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."
Most of his threats have been aimed at people in Pakistan but at least one was directed at the UK journalist Azhar Javaid who asked a question once too often. At a press conference in September 2011 Hussain warned Javaid that his "body bag was ready".
Adressing those whom he accused of denying the Mohajirs their rights, in December 2012, Hussain ranted: "If your father won't give us freedom just listen to this sentence carefully: then we will tear open your father's abdomen. To get our freedom we will not only tear it out of your father's abdomen but yours as well."
Partly because of the difficulty of establishing unchallengeable translations of Hussain's words, it might be months before the police decide whether to recommend a prosecution. In the meantime there is talk of a private prosecution. Long-time MQM critic George Galloway MP recently set up a fund to pay the legal fees of such an initiative.
On two occasions British judges have found that the MQM is a violent organisation. In 2010 a Karachi-based police officer sought asylum in the UK claiming the MQM was threatening to kill him in revenge for his having registered a case against one of its members. The judge, Lord Bannatyne, granted asylum and in his judgment accepted that: "the MQM has killed over 200 police officers who stood up to them in Karachi"....
Media reports indicate MQM chief Altaf Husain has been arrested on charges of money laundering.
During a search of his residence, the Scotland Yard investigators found large amounts of cash believed to have been extorted from Karachi-ites.
Here's an excerpt of a NY Times report:
LONDON — When British police officers mounted a dawn raid on a calm London suburb on Tuesday, with orders to arrest the powerful Pakistani political boss Altaf Hussain, the reverberations were felt most intensely 4,000 miles away in the port city of Karachi.
Businesses hastily shuttered, trains stopped and workers raced home, clogging the streets in chaotic traffic jams, amid panic that the arrest of Mr. Hussain, a charismatic figure who for the past two decades has controlled Karachi from his exile in England, would result in an eruption of political bloodshed.
The sight of a sprawling megalopolis of 20 million people so visibly girding itself for trouble was a measure of the power that Mr. Hussain, through his Muttahida Qaumi Movement party, has come to wield over Karachi — a vital economic hub long divided by violent factional competition, more recently threatened by Taliban infiltration, and suddenly seized by trepidation over what will happen now that Mr. Hussain is in the custody of London’s Metropolitan Police.
“This is potentially very serious,” said Abbas Nasir, a former editor of the Pakistani newspaper Dawn. “The removal of someone as powerful as Altaf Hussain is always going to leave a vacuum. His party is in for a challenging time.”
The British move against Mr. Hussain is the culmination of a criminal investigation that started with the murder of a former M.Q.M. official near the party’s London offices in September 2010, and has since broadened into an inquiry that has targeted Mr. Hussain’s personal finances.
Over the past 18 months, the Metropolitan Police have raided Mr. Hussain’s house and offices in London, impounded about $600,000 in cash and a quantity of jewelry, and arrested a nephew who worked as his personal assistant.
Mr. Hussain, however, had avoided arrest until Tuesday morning. A police spokeswoman declined to confirm his identity — he will be named only if British prosecutors bring him to trial — but did confirm that a 60-year-old man was being questioned on suspicion of money laundering.
On Tuesday, Pakistani political operatives gathered at Southwark police station in central London where Mr. Hussain, who is said to be in poor health, had been taken by the police. And at the party’s heavily guarded headquarters in Karachi, senior officials tried to put a brave face on the M.Q.M.’s gravest crisis in decades.
Clearly playing for time, some party officials initially claimed that reports of Mr. Hussain’s arrest were a rumor. Later, others claimed, inaccurately, that he was still at his London home and had been invited by the police to an interview. Senior leaders resorted to angry speeches that described the charges as a conspiracy against their beloved leader.
One image circulating on the Internet depicted a man with bloodied hands ripping open his own chest to reveal a picture of Mr. Hussain. “Only Altaf Till Death,” read the slogan.
The worry now is that if British prosecutors proceed with a money-laundering trial, the party, which is rooted in Mr. Hussain’s personality cult, could fall apart, possibly bringing intense violence to the streets of Karachi.
The British charges against Mr. Hussain stem from a police investigation intothe stabbing death of Imran Farooq outside his London home in 2010.
Mr. Farooq had once been a party loyalist and close associate of Mr. Hussain, but the two men fell out before his death. The police investigation quickly focused on Mr. Hussain and his party.
This spring, British officials asked Pakistan for access to two Pakistani men linked to Mr. Farooq’s death, and who are believed to be in the custody of the Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the country’s top military intelligence agency.
That investigation is troubling for Mr. Hussain’s party, but it is a broadened inquiry into his personal finances that have caused the recent trouble. Police officials have said they are examining the source of the money that pays for Mr. Hussain’s lifestyle in London, and whether he has paid tax on it.
One businessman told The New York Times, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, that after he had donated $25,000 to the M.Q.M., he was asked by party officials to sign a statement saying he had donated $500,000.
It will be interesting to note whether PPP-MQM have joined hands out of compulsion or will it really be a new journey, burying the bitter past. It looks difficult but it is the only option for peace in Sindh as well as its economic development. But one still has to wait and see the “written accord” between the two representative parties of Sindh. Both have supported the ongoing “operation” which will continue. Former President Asif Ali Zardari faced internal criticism and pressure when he informed his top leaders about seat adjustment with MQM in the Senate and also about the new accord.
Mr Zardari, who is now tightening his grip on the party after reports that the party’s senior most leader, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, is not happy with some of the decisions he has taken. His absence from the Parliamentary Board’s meetings and not awarding a single ticket on Amin Fahim’s recommendations has raised many questions. Whether these differences are of serious nature or not but the fact remained that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, for all practical purposes, is no longer chairman of the PPP.
Mr. Zardari also knows that there still are strong reservations over this accord within PPP, Sindh, particularly at this crucial time. It is important for him to satisfy his leaders from interior Sindh as well as from Karachi.
Rehman Malik, the man behind the new accord, does not enjoy support in the PPP, Sindh, yet this accord with MQM has added one more seat to the PPP tally, from six to seven in the senate elections, which is crucial as the party will hardly be getting any seat from other three province.Secondly, Mr Zardari also knows that he needs MQM to check the entry of PTI in Sindh.
Thirdly, local bodies elections are also in his mind and that is why he is making new alliances in Sindh. MQM will be getting Karachi and Hyderabad while it will support PPP in interior Sindh.
At the same time Mr Zardari needs to control his ministers and local leaders, as they will be facing tough questions from the media in the “talk shows.” He will be facing some problems in interior Sindh, as he not having the best of terms with his school-time friend, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, these days.
Mirza is also not happy with the arrest of Uzair Baluch in Dubai and his possible extradition to Pakistan. But, his main differences are not with Zardari but with his sister, Faryal Talpur.Sensing the possible dissent in the party, the PPP co-chairman will be making a few important decisions about his relations with Functional Muslim League and smaller groups.
One of the crucial alliances, expected on Friday, will be Jatois joining hands with Zardari, bringing an end to the decades-old political rivalries. It will certainly change the political dynamics of Nawabshah.
It was also not be an easy decision for the MQM and its chief, Altaf Hussain, either. He too is facing problems in his own party and frequent reshuffle in the Rabita Committee is an indicatio