News / Asia

Altaf Hussain Arrest Shuts Down Karachi for Second Day

Female supporters of Pakistan's Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) political party, chant slogans to show solidarity with their leader Altaf Hussain in Karachi, Pakistan, June 4, 2014.
Female supporters of Pakistan's Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) political party, chant slogans to show solidarity with their leader Altaf Hussain in Karachi, Pakistan, June 4, 2014.
Pakistan's largest city was on lockdown for a second day on Wednesday, with shops and markets closed and people staying home for fear of violence following the arrest in London of one of the country's most feared men.
Altaf Hussain, leader of the powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party and wanted in Pakistan in relation to a murder case, was arrested in northwest London where he has lived in self-imposed exile since the early 1990s.
Karachi, a sprawling and violent port city of 18 million, is virtually controlled by Hussain's party, and reports of sporadic violence emerged as soon as news of his arrest reached the city.
On Wednesday, about 2,000 of his supporters rallied in the center in support of Hussain but elsewhere the city was in lockdown, with markets and petrol stations closed and its usually chaotic and bustling streets empty of traffic.
“The people of Karachi and other big and small cities of Sindh [province] still see Altaf Hussain as their leader,” Nasir Jamal, a senior MQM official, told Reuters.
“The thrust of this protest is the release of Altaf Hussain. We are here until we see positive indications from London.”
Karachi shut down

The largely peaceful crowd sporadically burst into loud chants of slogans in support of Hussain. “Long live Altaf!” and “Even after death Altaf will continue to live!” shouted his supporters.
The ability of Hussain's supporters to shut down Pakistan's commercial hub for two days underscores his influence and many fear that riots might still erupt. But as of Wednesday evening no major acts of violence had been reported.
The cost of the shutdown will also weigh heavily on a city already beset by daily violence and feudal spats between its many ethnic and political groups.
A spokesman for London police said Hussain remained in custody where he is being questioned on suspicion of money laundering. “By this evening we will probably know if he's going to be charged or released,” the spokesman said.
The MQM party's support base is millions of Muslim Urdu-speaking people whose families migrated to Karachi and nearby areas at the time of the 1947 partition of India.
Hussain fled to London in 1992 and obtained British citizenship a decade later. He continued to exert control over Karachi from his north London headquarters and remains one of Pakistan's most feared and divisive figures.
He is known for his fiery addresses to his supporters in Karachi though a loudspeaker connected to a telephone in his London home. His hold on Karachi is so strong that he is capable of shutting down entire neighborhoods.
But his arrest poses broader risks for the party, whose influence has already been diluted in recent years by the influx of other ethnic groups to Karachi including Taliban-linked Pashtun warlords.

You May Like

Pakistan Among Developing Countries Hit Hard by Global Warming

Pakistani officials hope developed nations agree to scale back emissions, offer help in dealing with climate change

Video Speed, Social Media Shape Counterterrorism Probes

Speed is critical in effort to prevent subsequent attacks; demographics of extremists lend themselves to communicating, establishing profiles on digital platforms

Islamic State Oil Trade Seduces Friends, Foes Alike

Terrorist group rakes in up to $500 million a year in sales to customers such as Syrian government, US-supported rebels and Turkey

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigationsi
Katherine Gypson
December 01, 2015 10:06 PM
In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Social Media Aids Counter-Terrorism Investigations

In the aftermath of the Paris attacks, officials carried out waves of raids and arrests to break up terror cells. As VOA's Katherine Gypson reports, social media can be a key tool for investigators.

Video Russia Marks World AIDS Day With Grim News

While HIV infection rates have steadied or even declined in many European countries, the caseload has grown rapidly in Russia, as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow. Over half of the new infections were transmitted through injection drug use.

Video Pakistan Hit Hard by Global Warming

As world leaders meet in Paris to craft a new global agreement aimed at cutting climate-changing greenhouse-gas emissions, many developing countries are watching closely for the final results. While most developing nations contribute much less to global warming than developed countries, they often feel the effects to a disproportionate degree. As Saud Zafar reports from Karachi, one such nation is Pakistan. Aisha Khalid narrates his report.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

VOA Blogs