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Pakistan Asks Britain To Move Against Politician Who Sparked Rioting

  • RFE/RL

A policeman guards the sealed MQM party headquarters, where a poster depicting exiled party leader Altaf Hussain was torn down.

A policeman guards the sealed MQM party headquarters, where a poster depicting exiled party leader Altaf Hussain was torn down.

Pakistan's Interior Ministry said it has asked Britain to take action against a self-exiled political leader whose fiery speech last week ignited rioting in Karachi.

Islamabad sent a dossier on Altaf Hussain to U.K. authorities alleging that he had incited violence and disturbed law and order in Pakistan while violating both British and international law, the ministry said on August 31.

Foreign Minister Nisar Ali Khan met with British High Commissioner Thomas Drew on August 31, although the ministry did not say whether they discussed Hussain.

Hussain is a British national and the founder of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM, which has long dominated politics in the southern city of Karachi.

The secular party represents ethnic Mohajirs -- those who fled to Pakistan from India during the 1947 partition. Its supporters have staged violent protests and clashed with political rivals and police in the past.

Hussain delivered a vitriolic speech last week via telephone to his supporters, saying, “Pakistan is a cancer for the entire world,” and "Pakistan is the epicenter of terrorism for the entire world," among other incendiary statements that quickly went viral on social media.

After the speech, his supporters poured into the streets of Karachi, chanting "Down with Pakistan" and ransacking three television stations. One person was killed in ensuing clashes with security forces.

The speech was widely denounced in Pakistan, including by opposition parties, which joined the government this week in calling on Britain to take legal action against Hussain.

Hussain apologized after the speech, saying he was under mental stress. But that did not prevent the MQM party leadership in Pakistan from disassociating itself from Hussain and promising that the party won't be run from London anymore, where Hussain has lived in self-imposed exile for years.

Pakistani security forces have since last week's violence arrested dozens of MQM supporters and sealed and demolished many of the party's offices. Portraits of Hussain have been removed from Karachi's streets and MQM offices.

Public prosecutor Mushtaq Jahanghri said 45 MQM leaders and supporters, including three women, appeared in court where a judge ordered them detained pending trial.

He said Hussain faces charges in two cases: for encouraging his supporters to "wage war against Pakistan" and for inciting them to damage public property.

With reporting by AP and