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Arrest Warrant For Exiled Pakistani Revives Political Feud

  • RFE/RL

A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant August 5 for the head of the political party that controls Pakistan's biggest and richest city, highlighting rivalries between the army and politicians there.

Many fear the tensions threaten the stability of Karachi, a financial hub that is home to 20 million people and generates half of government revenue. The city is plagued by militants and violent crime, and is ruled by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) political party.

MQM's leader Altaf Hussain lives in London, where he went into exile in 1992 after arrest warrants were issued against him for charges that included murder. The cases were later dropped.

The latest warrant alleges a new offense. Court officials said they issued a non-bailable warrant for Hussain's arrest after he allegedly threatened a colonel of the paramilitary Rangers force on a television talk show after the Rangers raided his party's headquarters in March.

The warrant was issued after a complaint was lodged with the Karachi police by Colonel Tahir Mehmood of Sindh Rangers, who led a paramilitary force in a March 11 predawn raid at Nine Zero, the MQM headquarters in Karachi.

In his complaint, the colonel maintained that Hussain threatened the officers who were part of the raiding team during an appearance on a Geo News talk show.

Hussain reportedly said on the show: "The officers who carried out a raid at my house were Rangers officers; they ‘were,’ they have now become [things of the past].”

Nine people, including the show’s host, his team members and others, were named as witnesses in the charge sheet.

While the warrant seeks Hussain's appearance in court on August 20, he is unlikely to be arrested by Pakistani police while he remains in London.

But the mere issuing of the first Pakistani warrant for Hussain in 15 years is an unmistakable sign of worsening relations between his party and the powerful military. Some say it raises questions about who will control Pakistan's financial capital in the future.

The MQM, Pakistan's fourth largest party, traditionally represents the descendents of Urdu-speakers who migrated from India after the creation of Pakistan in 1947. It was involved in bloody factional battles in Karachi in the 1990s and now holds the majority of the city's legislative seats.

Police officials privately accuse the MQM of operating like a mafia to maintain its tight control on power. The party has always strongly denied being involved in violence.

With reporting by Reuters, Express Tribune, and SAMAA TV