Karachi on alert after politician killed in London
Pakistan's biggest city of Karachi went on alert Friday, braced for possible violence as businesses ground to a halt after the killing in London of a leading politician exiled in Britain.
Imran Farooq, a founding member of Pakistan's Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a major political force in Karachi, was found with head injuries and stab wounds outside his home in north London on Thursday.
British police said they were called to reports of a serious assault in the Edgware district of the capital at 5:30 pm (1630 GMT).
"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)," said a spokesman for London's Metropolitan Police.
In Pakistan, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani condemned what his office called Farooq's "assassination".
Streets in Karachi were largely empty as MQM declared 10 days of mourning and scrapped birthday celebrations for its leader, Altaf Hussain, who is also based in Britain.
The city is plagued by ethnic and sectarian killings, crime and kidnappings, exacerbating woes in a country battling with unprecedented flooding that has killed more than 1,780 people and affected up to 21 million.
The murder of an MQM lawmaker, Raza Haider, in Karachi last month triggered a wave of political and ethnic killing in the city that left dozens dead.
"We have taken precautionary measures to ensure that no unholy element takes advantage of the situation and create violence," city police chief Fayyaz Leghari told AFP.
"At present the city is calm and peaceful," he added.
Traders and transporters announced shut downs in a sign of mourning.
"The city's traders have decided to close markets today to express our sorrow over the death. We'll meet later in the evening to decide about the future," the chairman of the All Karachi Traders Unity, Ateeq Mir, told AFP.
President of the Karachi Transport Unity, Irshad Bokhari, said public transport had ground to a halt owing to fears of "possible violence" in which vehicles could be damaged.
One police official told AFP on condition of anonymity that angry mourners set fire to around half a dozen vehicles in the city overnight.
Farooq Sattar, MQM's leader in Pakistan, told AFP that the murdered politician was a leader who "rendered tremendous services for the party".
He declined to comment when asked who may have killed him and why.
"Authorities in London are investigating and we hope that his killer will soon be arrested and get punished," he said.
Party faithful have been gathering outside Farooq's home in Karachi, consoling each other and many had tears in their eyes.
MQM is a partner in the ruling coalition led by the Pakistan People's Party in the southern province of Sindh, of which Karachi is the capital.
Farooq and Hussain created the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation in 1978 -- representing the Urdu-speaking majority population in Karachi.
He was its secretary general and remained so after the student wing was converted into MQM, a fully fledged party, six years later.
He was twice elected MP but went into hiding in 1992, when the government ordered a military crackdown against party activists in Karachi.
He was wanted over scores of charges, including murder and torture. Farooq always maintained that the charges were politically motivated and he re-emerged in London in 1999, when he claimed asylum in Britain.
Although he was officially number two in MQM and was popular within the party, his role was relatively low-key.
London has hosted a number of exiled Pakistani politicians. Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf currently lives in the British capital.
Farooq is survived by his widow Shumaila, also a former lawmaker, and two sons.
© 2010 AFP