KARACHI, Aug 23 – Pakistani paramilitary forces have sealed the headquarters of a powerful political party in the commercial hub of Karachi and detained five of its top leaders, after supporters of the party stormed the office of a television channel.
Supporters of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) rushed to the office of ARY News on Monday shortly after their leader Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in London, had in a telephone address sharply criticised the Pakistani media for failing to report on his workers’ recent hunger strikes.
Crowds of MQM workers then attacked the television office, firing shots and smashing the premises. They later clashed with police outside, leaving one person dead and several wounded.
“We have sealed the MQM headquarters, their media office and (their) hostel, some weapons have also been recovered,” Khurram Shahzad, the sector commander for the regional paramilitary Rangers force told reporters on Tuesday.
MQM said five of its leaders had been taken into custody.
Hussain is known for his fiery addresses to his supporters in Karachi though a loudspeaker connected to a telephone in his London home.
His hold on parts of the sprawling and crime-ridden metropolis is so strong that he can bring entire areas to a standstill and disrupt life for millions in the city.
In a statement issued from London, Hussain asked for forgiveness from the army and Rangers chiefs.
“From the depth of heart, I beg pardon from the Pakistani establishment,” he said. “I was under severe mental stress over extra-judicial arrests and precarious condition of my workers sitting at hunger striking camp.”
Law enforcement agencies and its opponents accuse MQM of racketeering, abduction, torture and murder in its bid to maintain power.
The party, which denies any link to crime, has accused the Rangers of carrying out dozens of extra-judicial killings of its members since a crackdown on crime in Karachi in 2013.