Senior party leaders, including chief Altaf Hussain, deny Saulat Mirza’s allegations.
Authorities on Thursday delayed by three days the hanging of a political activist convicted of murder, as a video of him emerged claiming his party chief had ordered him to carry out killings.
Saulat Ali Khan, also known as Saulat Mirza, was sentenced to death for murdering the then managing director of the city’s state-owned electricity company in 1997. He was due to be hanged on Thursday but a stay was ordered, just as a video was circulated showing Mirza making striking allegations against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)—the main party in Karachi, of which he was an activist.
The MQM maintains a strong grip on power in Karachi under the leadership of Altaf Hussain who has been in self-imposed exile in London since 1992.
Mirza claimed Hussain had ordered him to carry out the murder for which he was sentenced to hang. “Altaf Hussain directed us through Babar Ghauri [a senior party leader] that the KESC [Karachi Electric Supply Company] M.D. has to be killed,” Mirza said in the video, which was leaked to dozens of news channels.
The video is the latest blow to the MQM, whose headquarters were raided by paramilitary forces last week resulting in one death, the arrest of dozens of activists and the seizure of a cache of weapons. It was not clear who shot or leaked the video, and the official reason given for the stay of execution was Mirza’s ill health.
“We requested the prime minister and on his advice the president put his execution on hold for 72 hours because of health concerns,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told lawmakers in Parliament on Thursday. But speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior official in the home department of Balochistan province, where Mirza is in jail, said there were hopes he could become a witness for the state.
The MQM, which is dominated by ethnic Muhajirs who migrated from India at the time of Partition in 1947, presents itself as a liberal, secular force, but opponents accuse it of operating as a criminal enterprise. Its hold on power in Karachi has weakened in recent years and senior members of the party have told AFP that it has fallen out of favor with the country’s military establishment, who wish to see it cut down to size.
Hussain strongly denied Mirza’s allegations, in comments broadcast by all major TV channels. “I never gave any such orders to anyone and I do not even know Saulat Mirza,” Hussain said. “It is an attempt to malign the party and the part of the ongoing media trial of my party.”
Ghauri, the senior MQM leader, also denied the allegations.