The dramatic announcement by Altaf Hussain as head of the MQM early Sunday morning (Pakistan time) has taken many observers by surprise. Is the godfather of MQM serious or is this another of his political stunts to shore up support when his popularity has declined dramatically in recent months? His quick retraction a few hours later proved this was all a show.
June 29, 2013, 23:05 EDT
Updated June 30 - 09:48 EDT
Altaf Hussain, founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and one of the biggest gangsters in Pakistani politics, resigned as chief of the party, on early Sunday morning (June 30) Pakistan time. He said he was handing over all authority to the MQM Rabita (Coordination) Committee. A few hours later, he retracted his resignation under what was called "demands of party workers."
Following his resignation announcement, a few hundred party workers gathered outside Nine Zero, the MQM headquarter in Azizabad district of Karachi to ask Hussain not to resign. This is what he was looking for. The "surprise" resignation and quick retraction confirm yet again that the man is a complete fraud and indulges in gimmicks to attract media attention. If he were sincere, he should have waited to see if support for his leadership was more widespread. A few hundred workers gathering outside party headquarters is no proof of popularity or mass support.
The MQM is a major party in Karachi although in the last election, it lost much support to Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaaf (PTI) that made major inroads in MQM's traditional support base. Hussain's stunt came in the wake of developments in London where he has ensconced himself after fleeing Pakistan two decades ago.
In recent weeks, calls to the British government to take action against him had increased in the British parliament. In particular, George Galloway, the MP for Respect Party, had demanded why the British government allowed a man to instigate violence in Pakistan while being sheltered in Britain and financed by British taxpayers. Hussain has also been accused of several murders in Pakistan.
He has been implicated in the September 16, 2010 murder of Dr Imran Farooq, founding member of the MQM who was also living in exile in London. The MQM don admitted that Scotland Yard police had raided his residence some days ago and seized material from his house. A number of other people were also arrested in London and questioned by London Metropolitan Police in connection with the murder.
Following increasing calls for action, the London police was forced to step up investigation into the murder of Dr Imran Farooq. They searched two residential properties in London earlier this month as part of the ongoing probe, conducted several raids, arrested a number of suspects including one person who had flown from Toronto. Thousands of documents retrieved in such raids were also scanned for possible use in the court case.
After his theatrical resignation announcement that many observers see as a political stunt to shore up his declining support, Altaf Hussain said he would not seek legal counsel or hire a solicitor. Instead, he would personally plead his case if he were charged in the murder of Imran Farooq.
Hussain has been head of the party since its inception in 1984. Its original name was Muhajir Qaumi Movement and was the brainchild of General Zia ul-Haq who wanted to undermine support for the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP). Zia’s project was too clever by half. The MQM became a party of gangsters, torturers and rapists. The MQM also made itself available to foreign intelligence agencies in return for money. A letter surfaced several years ago in which Hussain had proposed to the British High Commission in Pakistan that his party was prepared to spy for Britain if London would provide political and financial support.
The MQM under Hussain has also been known to work for the CIA as well as India’s intelligence agency, RAW. Despite its treacherous role, the party has continued to function in Pakistan.
In the 1970s, Hussain was a cab driver in Chicago. It was there that the street hustler made contact with the CIA and then came under the benevolent eye of General Zia, perhaps on the recommendation of the American intelligence agency with whom the Pakistani military ruler had close contacts because of the Afghan war. William Casey, then CIA Director, was a frequent visitor to Zia’s military house in Rawalpindi.
It will be interesting to see if Hussain is actually brought to trial to face charges in Imran Farooq’s murder case. After all, he could spill a lot of beans about his murky dealings with British and US intelligence agencies and that would not be good for them.