Karachi in Chaos After Key Politician’s Arrest in London

MQM Leader's Arrest Brings Pakistan's Economic Capital to a Halt

Karachi, Pakistan’s main economic and industrial hub and at 23.5 million people one of the largest cities of the planet, is in a state of chaos tonight after the arrest of a key politician in London.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain has been living in exile in London since the early 1990s, though he has also occasionally gone back for speeches. He effectively runs Karachi, as well as much of the Sindh Province, out of an office in northern London. He was arrested in his home and faces charges related to money laundering.

The announcement of his arrest sparked a major panic across the city. Shops were closed anticipating riots, gunmen fired into the air across the city, and MQM protesters took to the streets. At least five have been confirmed killed in preliminary violence.

By the end of the day, everything was closed, with Karachi announcing they are shutting down public transportation for the time being, and sporadic reports of power outages and spotty cable and telephone service.

Britain had threatened to arrest Hussain last year for a speech he gave suggesting that Karachi could secede if Pakistan remained unhappy with the MQM election victory, which British officials claimed counted as “hate speech.”

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for Antiwar.com. He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.