Pakistan’s self-exiled politician arrested in London

KARACHI, Pakistan

Pakistan’s self-exiled politician Altaf Hussain was arrested in London on Thursday in connection with an inflammatory speech he delivered via telephone in 2016 to his followers back home, local media and security officials reported.

Hussain, who has been living in exile for more than 25 years, leads the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a party influential in urban areas of Pakistan’s southern province of Sindh, including port city of Karachi.

He was arrested by Metropolitan Police from Southwark Police Station, where he appeared following expiry of his bail, broadcaster Geo News reported, quoting London Metropolitan Police.

He was charged with a terrorism related offense.

The arrest has sent shockwaves across Pakistan as Hussain once ruled Karachi, the country’s commercial capital, with an iron fist, shutting down the entire city in mere seconds with the help of his loyal workers.

Hussain — who is wanted by Pakistani security forces in multiple cases relating to murder, terrorism, inciting violence and money laundering — has been charged with a terrorism offense on the charge of encouraging violence.

On Aug. 22, 2016, Hussain, who is notorious for his incendiary speeches, in a telephonic address, encouraged hundreds of his supporters to attack the office of a local broadcaster, which according to him, did not give “due” coverage to his party’s activities.

Soon after his speech, dozens of his supporters ransacked the office of ARY News located in Karachi southern district, and beat up the security guards who tried to stop them.

Hussain was previously arrested in June on the same charge but was released on bail.

He is also facing inquiries for money laundering and delivering a hate speech to his supporters via telephone after the 2013 general elections.

Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Authority has sent an extradition request to the U.K. government for Hussain.

Hussain’s party was splintered in two factions in 2016 after a series of anti-Pakistan and anti-military speeches. His loyalists formed the London faction, while dissidents are based in Pakistan.

The MQM, which claims to represent the Urdu-speaking migrants who moved to Pakistan with the partition of India in 1947, has often been accused of being involved in violence, with Hussain at the helm.

His party is linked to a carnage in Karachi on May 12, 2007 which killed over 50 people on the occasion of a lawyers rally to welcome then deposed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Iftikhar Chaudhry. Hussain is also accused of masterminding the murder of his close aide and the party’s former secretary-general Imran Farooq, who was stabbed to death in 2010 in London.

The party had managed to win majority seats in elections from Karachi — the country’s commercial capital — from 1988 to 2013 — however it conceded a huge blow in the 2018 elections at the hands of Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Party.
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