19 MQM offices razed, over 200 unit offices sealed in Pak

19 MQM offices razed, over 200 unit offices sealed in Pak
Further cracking down on Pakistan's MQM, authorities have demolished around 19 of the party's offices and sealed another 219 of its sector and unit offices besides the headquarters for being 'illegally' constructed on government land.

The offices of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in different areas of Karachi were razed by the Sindh government and law enforcement agencies as they were illegally constructed on plots earmarked for schools, playgrounds and libraries, senior police officials said. "The MQM had constructed these buildings after forcibly grabbing government land," SSP Rao Anwar said.

The crackdown on the MQM - the single largest party in Karachi - started earlier this week soon after party leader Altaf Hussain made anti-Pakistan comments during speeches at a hunger strike camp in Karachi and at a function in the US. Pakistan has charged the self-exiled leader in London with treason for his inflammatory speech that incited party workers to attack media outlets here.

The paramilitary rangers and police have arrested at least 30 senior leaders of the party and started the drive to demolish MQM offices and seal sector and unit offices. Posters of Hussain have also been taken down in different areas of Karachi including the Mukka chowk, which has served as a symbol of power for the MQM since the 80s.

The authorities have renamed the roundabout close to the MQM headquarters at Aisha Manzil as Liaquat Ali Khan chowk. For years now, Hussain's posters have dominated the landscapes of Karachi and other urban areas but since Wednesday, his posters have been taken down even from the Aisha Manzil area where the MQM had its headquarters '90' since its emergence as a major political player in Pakistan.

The rangers have also sealed the headquarters of the party. Although the senior MQM leaders have tried to distance themselves from the leadership in London including Hussain after his hate speeches, the Paramilitary Rangers and police have continued its crackdown on the party, which claims to represent the Urdu-speaking population in Pakistan.

Mustafa Kamal, who heads the Pak Sarzameen Party which was formed by dissidents from the MQM earlier this year, told a press conference today that demolishing MQM offices would serve no purpose. "These buildings have not made any speeches against Pakistan and I fear that if this demolishing drive continues it will only reignite sympathies for Hussain," he warned.

MQM's Izhar ul Hasan, Opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly, told reporters the party will not resort to protests or violence and rather use legal and constitutional means to stop the demolition of party offices and reopening of the headquarters. The MQM emerged as a largely ethnic party in the 1980s. It has political dominance in the southern Sindh province's urban areas - notably in Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Sukkur where a large number of Urdu-speaking people reside.


Meanwhile, MQM leaders Farooq Sattar and Izharul Hasan today broke all ties with their party leader Hussain and emotionally denounced the arrest and detention of women workers and bulldozing of party offices.

"We have made it clear we have broken all ties with the MQM London (run by Hussain) and now only the MQM Pakistan represents the supporters and workers of the party," Sattar, a Member of National Assembly and MQM deputy convener, said at a press conference.

However, despite the announcement, the authorities were still 'illegally and unconstitutionally' demolishing party offices in Karachi and other parts of Sindh, the veteran politician said besides lamenting the victimisation of MQM in the media.

"We can only term such actions as victimisation of the MQM now and it seems this is not just about the diatribes of Altaf Hussain. "When we say that we have disconnected with London it means that we are no more in contact with them, stop doing speculations," he said.

MQM must be allowed to play its political role and political ownership which is its due legal and political right, he said. "How can you seal the offices and headquarters of a political party just because of a speech made by an individual who had now been disassociated from the party," he said.

Sattar and an emotional Hasan also lashed out at the Sindh police officials for arresting and detaining women workers of the party after the August 22 crackdown when Hussain made his anti-Pakistan comments at a hunger strike camp. "How can you arrest women, most of whom are innocent, like this. We are very hurt and upset with this trend and it must be stop immediately," Sattar said. 
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