MANSOOR KHAN/FARAZ ISRAR/RAMZAN CHANDIO

KARACHI - Tension grips Karachi followed by the arrest of MQM chief Altaf Hussain in money laundering case in London. 

The news of the arrest of MQM chief spread across the City like a fire. People started running here and there and shut off their commercial and non-commercial activities. The sudden havoc caused a severe gridlock and panic. Miscreants torched at least 15 vehicles and also resorted to aerial firing.

The self-exiled MQM leader remained in London since 1992, was taken into custody by the London Metropolitan Police and Scotland Yard. The news of his arrest has also paralysed various other cities of the province including Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Sukkur, Nawabshah, Khairpur and other areas where commercial and non-commercial activities were also suspended. The Karachi Stock Exchange (KSE-100 index) fell 260 points immediately.

In Karachi alone, miscreants set on fire at least 15 vehicles in different areas including Gulberg, Shafiq Mor, Gulzar-e-Higri, Abdul Hassan Ispahani Road, Landhi, Korangi and other areas of the metropolis. Public transport had also quickly vanished from the roads which increased problems for the people. The government offices were also immediately closed but miscreants ransacked the offices of the KMC in Civic Centre. Educational institutions including schools, colleges and universities have also cancelled their scheduled exams. People were in a hurry as the news of Altaf arrest spread out causing the main city thoroughfares including Shahrah-e-Faisal, II Chundrigar Road, and Khalid Bin Waleed Road were jammed pack for four to five hours.

In order to avoid any untoward incident, the UK government has closed the British consulate in Karachi for indefinite period, said sources privy to the matter.

They said foreign staffers left for London earlier before the arrest of the MQM chief. Heavy contingent of police and rangers have also been deployed outside the consulate and erected barricades and suspended the vehicular traffic. Railway administration have also confirmed that the trains going to Karachi from up country were stopped and others trains’ schedule have also been suspended.

Army troops have beefed up security at all cantonment areas and sensitive installations. Despite intense pressure and panic, MQM local leadership managed to control the workers and calm down the situation. The law enforcement agencies resorted to intense firing when workers and sympathisers were started moving towards the Numaish Chowrangi, MA Jinnah Road where MQM staged sit-in demonstration against the arrest of their chief. The rallies of MQM were interrupted by the law enforces near MQM headquarters Azizabad and Liaquatabad.

In some areas, the charged mob also pelted with stones on the passing vehicles and also ransacked the shops which were not closed.

Meanwhile, MQM coordination committee has further confirmed that MQM chief Altaf Hussain has shifted to the local hospital from the police station.

Altaf is undergoing medical checkups at the hospital. Doctors have seen him and asked for blood tests. The fasting blood test will be carried out today (Wednesday) at around 11:00am. He will remain in the hospital overnight. The doctors will decide after looking at the fasting blood test report if Altaf is medically fit to be interviewed by the police or not.

MQM senior leader Dr Farooq Sattar while addressing the party workers appealed to the party workers to show restrain and remain peaceful. “We all should stay calm and should not become impatient in any condition. It is the time the workers should stay united and aware with the developments by keeping in touch with the party office,” he said.

MQM coordination committee member Haider Abbas Rizvi denying the reports of Altaf’s arrest claimed the party chief was still at his residence. He said it was the prime duty of the workers not to resort to violence and remain peaceful. Workers should avoid spreading rumours and those who were attempting to create panic among citizens were not the MQM activists, he added.

Earlier, MQM senior deputy convener Nadeem Nusrat during a press briefing at Khursheed Begum Secretariat via telephone from London confirmed that the Metropolitan Police arrived at the residence of MQM chief Altaf Hussain in North London. They had the search warrants. He said they wanted to arrest Altaf and took him to the police station where he will be questioned about the money laundering investigation.

“We will like to inform that Altaf is ill for the past several days and only yesterday, MQM central coordination committee discussed his health situation and contacted his personal doctor. The doctor visited his residence and examined him. He advised shifting him to the hospital. He also consulted with various specialists and it was decided that on Tuesday morning, he will be admitted to the hospital where he will get treatment for the next few days,” he added.

Nusrat further informed that on Tuesday, Altaf was getting ready for the hospital when the police arrived at his house and informed him that he is being arrested for investigation. However, Altaf is still at his residence and our lawyers are in contact with the police, he claimed.

He said workers and supporters all over the world including Pakistan were very concerned and worried for his health on this news. MQM coordination committee has also shared their sentiments and appealed to the people to control their sentiments and maintain peace at all cost. Nusrat further appealed to the media to play responsible role regarding the issue.

Meanwhile, MQM coordination committee member Haider Abbas Rizvi announced a sit-in in favour of party chief Altaf Hussain’s release. He appealed to the supporters and workers to participate in the protest.

Speaking at Nine-Zero, Rizvi said after consultation they had decided to arrange a sit-in at Numaish Chowrangi on MA Jinnah Road until Altaf was not released.

He said people should stage sit-in outside their respective cities’ press clubs to show love to their leader. He affirmed that MQM is a political party which strongly believes in democratic process and will exhibit peaceful and democratic retaliation to this unfortunate incident.

Sources privy to the matter revealed that Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad Khan have contacted the British High Commission, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and other top leadership in the ruling government regarding the situation.

QAIM APPEALS MQM WORKERS TO REMAIN CALM

Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah has saddened over the reported detention of MQM chief Altaf Hussain in London and expressed sympathies with the leaders and workers of MQM and his family.

The chief minister has also contacted Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad on phone and expressed sympathies over this sad report.

The CM has appealed to the leaders and workers of the MQM to remain calm and maintain peace in Karachi and other cities of the province. Qaim has also expressed apprehension about the health of Altaf and prayed for his early health recovery.