Charges unlikely to prompt immediate action against MQM chief, who remains in self-exile in London.
Police have begun investigating Altaf Hussain, the chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, over threats he allegedly made toward law enforcement agencies after a raid on the party’s headquarters last week.
The charges are related to comments made by Hussain, who leads the MQM from self-imposed exile in London, after paramilitary Rangers raided the party’s offices where they seized a “huge quantity” of weapons and arrested activists, including one accused of murdering a journalist. The raid, in which one activist was killed, sparked an angry response from the party with workers shutting down large parts of Karachi.
In an interview with the private TV station Geo, Hussain condemned the raid and made what the paramilitary Rangers force said were veiled threats against them. “The officers that raided my house, they belonged to the Rangers. They were, and they are now, the past,” he said according to an official complaint registered by the paramilitary force.
Police officer Tariq Dharejo told AFP Tuesday that his force had registered anti-terror charges against the party chief. But the charges are not thought likely to yield immediate action or extradition requests against Hussain, who has lived in London since fleeing a military operation against his party in 1992 and is a British citizen.
The 61-year-old remains a highly influential figure in Karachi, Pakistan’s economic center and main port, though observers believe his grip on power is gradually diminishing in his absence and his party is no longer the force it once was. He was arrested in June last year by British police on suspicion of money laundering charges, but later released on bail, leading to speculation that his once cozy ties with London, who viewed his party as a bulwark against Taliban terrorism, could be fraying.
According to sources in the law department of Sindh province, there were 72 cases against Hussain including 31 of murder and a total of 3,800 cases against MQM before 2007. These cases were withdrawn by the government after former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf announced a general amnesty in 2007. However, the party said that all the cases against Hussain were disposed off by the courts of law after due legal course.