Imran Farooq’s Murder: Altaf may not return to lead the ‘revolution’ – by Shiraz Paracha

The murder of Imran Farooq in London has provided the MQM boss Altaf Hussain a perfect excuse to say no to calls for his return to Pakistan and lead the ‘revolution’. He may not come back due to security fears. Last month, from his London control room, Altaf, now a British citizen, urged the people of Pakistan to stand up and bring the ‘revolution’ with the help of patriotic generals of the Pakistan Army.

Opponents as well as the supporters of Altaf wanted him to come and lead the ‘revolution’ but the death of Imran Farooq could be an opportunity for Altaf to control the ‘revolution’ in Pakistan by staying 4000 miles away. Perhaps we will not be able to observe Altaf Hussain on the streets leading the people from Karachi to Peshawar.

Leaders are not afraid, mafia bosses and law offenders are. Leaders remain among the people but mafia bosses hide, they fear death and run away from the law. Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said: “I would prefer to die at the hands of the dictator rather than by the history”. He stood to his words. Politically Bhutto rules Pakistan 31 years after his judicial murder.

Benazir Bhutto was warned by friendly heads of states and governments not to return to Pakistan, but she did. A month before her assassination, she was targeted in Karachi where hundreds of her party workers had died. Despite vivid threats to her life she stayed in Pakistan. Benazir was aware of the dangers but she was not afraid of death. She wrote her will and informed her family and friends what could happen to her. She saw death and faced it as a leader.

Like Altaf Hussain and other top officials of the MQM, Imran Farooq, too, was named as the main accused in at least 60 cases of killings and violence. He allegedly led MQM-hit squads and was involved in gang wars.

Imran was Altaf’s right hand man for a long time but, apparently, in recent months both of them had disagreements and Altaf with his draconian powers forced Imran out of the MQM’s inner circles. Imran was fully aware of the working and operations of the MQM and thus was a possible threat to those who would like to run the MQM in a mafia style.

Top bosses of the MQM are supposed to be tight lipped about organizational secrets and deeds. Depressed and disgruntled Imran was a potential loose cannon. For the MQM it has been easy to deal with such characters in Pakistan but in London handling with a man of Imran’s status was not simple.

Imran was sidelined but he did not protest. Perhaps he was worried about the safety of his father and other family members in Karachi. Or, perhaps despite his disappointment with the leadership he remained a loyal MQM member. We may not know what was on Imran’s mind before his death, until his widow or one of his confidants speaks out.

A British newspaper reported that Altaf was hysterical when he heard the news of Imran Farooq’s murder. Images of sobbing Altaf flashed around the world. Altaf is famous for his mood swings and outbursts. He seems to be a man who is suffering from manic depression. However, he can hide his imperfections and intellectual confusions behind his mellow-dramatic, exaggerated and bizarre behavior, especially in public.

In 2000, when I lived in the UK, I had attended a gathering in London where Altaf had given a theatrical performance. During his one-hour long so-called speech he danced, he sang, he screamed and he cried. His behavior was embarrassing as he represented the people of Pakistan’s most educated urban areas. A member of the audience challenged one of the claims that Altaf had made. The MQM bouncers who were present on the occasion rounded the challenger, threatened him and the poor guy was forced out of the hall.

It is interesting to note that in August 2010, a senior official of the US embassy in Islamabad met Altaf Hussain in London. According to the news reports, the meeting lasted for three hours. It was around that time when Altaf shared his dream of the ‘revolution’ with Pakistanis and called patriotic generals to remove the corrupt politicians. His call for the military-led ‘revolution’ coincided with the arrival of hundreds and thousands of flood victims from the interior Sindh to Karachi and Hyderabad. Some commentators believed that migration prompted Altaf’s calls for the ‘revolution’.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair had introduced laws under which certain kind of behavior and speeches were declared illegal in the UK. Many people, almost all Muslims, were deported from Britain and several were jailed under the new laws. One such person was Abu Hamza al-Masri, a Muslim cleric of Egyptian origin.

In February 2006, Abu Hamza was sent to jail for seven years for making fiery speeches critical of the British and American foreign policies. He was found guilty of inciting violence. Abu Hamza was convicted of 11 of 15 charges of using his influence as a spiritual leader of the Muslim community in North London to become, in the words of the prosecution, a recruiting sergeant for terrorism.

Abu Hamza was convicted of three out of four charges of using threatening words or behavior to stir up racial hatred. Prosecution lawyer David Perry said that the cleric used “the most dangerous weapons available – a great religion, Islam, his position as a civic leader and the power of words, his own words.”

From his London control room, the MQM boss, Altaf Hussain, every day gives speeches in which he indirectly attacks different ethnic groups of Pakistan. People are abducted, tortured and even killed in Karachi allegedly by the supporters of Altaf Hussain. Such supporters could well be under the influence of Altaf’s fiery telephonic speeches. But the British and American politicians and diplomats consult as well as advise Altaf Hussain.

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