Murder most foul

Much of the country, Karachi in particular, is on edge following the assassination of exiled MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq. Convenor of MQM’s policy-making body, Rabita Committee, Dr Imran Farooq, who was not active for a couple of years, was killed outside his London home on Friday afternoon.

This was the second murder of any high-ranking MQM leader after the killing of the then party chairman, Azim Tariq, in 1993. According to Metropolitan police, they were called to reports of a serious assault in the Edgware district of the capital of 5.30 pm (1630 GMT) and “officers found an Asian man, aged 50, with stab wounds and head injuries. Paramedics treated the man but he was pronounced dead at the scene at 6.37 pm (1737 GMT).” None has so far accepted responsibility for the attack. Dr Farooq’s death has been widely condoled inside and outside the country.

MQM chief Altaf Hussain was visibly aghast. He termed the incident unbelievable and the biggest shock of his life. In Pakistan, his killing has been roundedly condemned by government and opposition leaders including President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani. Celebrations of Altaf Hussain’s 57th birthday were scrapped immediately after the news became public. The MQM announced a 10-day mourning period. In Karachi, schools, colleges, markets and restaurants closed as a very large number of MQM workers gathered to grieve at his Karachi residence, consoling each other and many had tears in their eyes. Karachi Tajir Ittehad announced a one day shuttering down of all markets while Karachi Transport Ittehad decided to withdraw all public transport from the roads on Friday. According to Dr Farooq Sattar, the deputy convenor of MQM, Dr Farooq was a leader who rendered tremendous sacrifices for the party. But he has declined to comment when asked who may have killed him and why, saying that authorities in London are investigating and he hopes that Dr Farooq’s killers be arrested and get punished.

Imran and Altaf Hussain created the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation in 1978. He was its secretary general and remained so after the students wing was converted into Muhajir Qaumi Movement six years later. As a man considered a thinker by the leadership he was put in charge of the political education of the party. He is credited with helping to craft MQM’s original ideological tenets and educating core party workers, a role that arguably, ironically and controversially brings him close to the late Sami Shaukat, a leading proponent of Ba’ath ideology of 20th century Iraq. He was MQM’s parliamentary leader after being elected to the National Assembly in 1988. After Altaf Hussain’s decision to go into self exile in Britain in 1992, it fell to Imran Farooq to keep the party running. He went underground following military crackdown against MQM activists in Karachi later that year and ran the party for seven years to keep the party active in Karachi and other urban centres of Sindh. He surfaced in London in 1999, when he claimed asylum in Britain on grounds that he had been implicated in politically-motivated cases falsely involving him in criminal and terrorist activities and that a bounty had been put on his head. He maintained that it was impossible for him to remain in Pakistan due to the continued threat to his life and liberty. Of late there were unconfirmed reports of his being sidelined from the day-to-day activities of the party on account of differences with the leadership. Indeed, his is a great loss for Altaf Hussain and the party. For the party chief, Altaf Hussain, it was possible to question Dr Farooq’s judgements in relation to key policy issues, but not his scrupulous concern with factual understanding of issues and his intellectual integrity. Political analysts are still baffled by certain occurrences in the phenomenal and consistent rise of MQM. Occurrences such as how it is that MQM continues to get more and more votes in Sindh’s urban centres; how has it been able to make inroads even in areas such in AJ&K and Gilgit Baltistan despite a perception or image problem that it confronts outside urban Sindh.

There is a general tendency to ascribe political motives whenever a leader or an activist of a party is assassinated. The general practice is to hold political rivals responsible for the killing. As people do not have faith in police and investigation agencies, retaliatory attacks are conducted immediately on activists of the rival parties. This often leads to the killing of innocent people. The assassination has taken place in a country which has highly professional and apolitical investigation agencies equipped with most modern forensic facilities.

The Scotland Yard has already started investigations in Dr Imran Farooq’s assassination. It would be advisable under the circumstances to let the agency complete its probe. It is a good omen that there was no finger pointing soon after the tragic incident as has been the common practice in the past. This is because of the widely-held perception that the British government would conduct a thorough and fair enquiry. One hopes the investigation would lead to the uncovering of the real hand behind the act and the punishment of the culprit and his possible handlers.

Unlike Pakistan, Britain has highly stringent laws against the possession of weapons by citizens. The murderer therefore did not use firearms, as happens invariably in such cases in Pakistan.

The tragic incident underlines the fact that in Britain also there is no security from determined killers. Hence, the need for suitable security arrangements for the party chief who has evoked in recent days a considerable controversy by underscoring the need for a “revolution” in the country and who, according to him, has left the country on security reasons if the Scotland Yard investigators so desire. After all, Dr Farooq was officially number two in MQM and was immensely popular within the party, although his role was relatively low-key for quite some time. He was like Leon Trotsky in the party hierarchy who was second only to Vladimir Lenin although the founder of Bolshevik Revolution was succeeded by Stalin, not by Trotsky. At this critical juncture of MQM’s nearly three-decade history, one earnestly hopes that the party will not answer Dr Imran Farooq’s assassination with violence. That would be the worst tribute the party could pay him. -brecorder