Friday, September 17, 2010

Pakistan: The ominous murder of Dr Imran Farooq


This may be read in continuation of the following articles of mine:

(a). Article of February 7,2010, titled “Karachi & Af-Pak Policy Options” at

(b). Article of August 5,2010, titled “ Murder of Shia Mohajir Leader Sparks Fresh Carnage in Karachi” at

2. According to the “Dawn” of Karachi, (September 17,2010), Dr Imran Farooq, a founding leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the organisation’s first Secretary-General, was assassinated in London on the evening of September 16. According to some sources, he was attacked by some unidentified men with daggers near his London residence and died of multiple wounds, but according to another source, a lone assailant had been lying in wait inside the apartment block where Dr Farooq lived on the first floor. He was attacked with a knife when he was climbing the stairs. He died on the spot. The murder coincided with the 57th birthday celebrations of Dr.Altaf Hussain, the head of the MQM, who lives in exile in London since 1992.

3. After Altaf fled to the UK from Karachi in 1992 to escape arrest on a charge of having an army officer kidnapped and tortured, Dr.Imran Farooq went underground and was clandestinely running the party on behalf of Altaf from different hide-outs in Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh. After some years, with the police hot on his trail, he too fled to London where he surfaced in 1999. He was reportedly given political asylum by the British authorities.

4. Dr. Imran Farooq was considered close to the late Zia-ul-Haq. At the instance of Zia, he founded the All-Pakistan Mohajir Students’ Organisation (APMSO) to counter the activities of the Sindhi and Pashtun nationalists and the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of Benazir Bhutto. It played an active role in the Mohajir-Pashtun communal clashes in Karachi during the Zia regime.

5. The APMSO was converted into the MQM under the leadership of Altaf, after Altaf returned to Karachi from the US where he was working. Altaf and Imran were very close to each other. Imran was considered the alter ego of Altaf. He kept the party intact and active after Altaf fled to the UK. He was an iconic figure to the Mohajir youth.

6. After he sought political asylum in the UK, he and Altaf worked closely together to co-ordinate the activities of the MQM in Karachi, Hyderabad and Sukkur to which its following was confined. They had its name changed as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in order to attract to its fold members of all ethnic communities instead of keeping it confined as a purely Mohajir (refugee from India) party. It made some headway in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (POK), including Gilgit-Baltistan, but not in other provinces.

7. Its activities earned for it the enmity of the Sindhis and the Pashtuns. Differences also developed in the MQM between Mohajirs (MQM), who had migrated from Uttar Pradesh in India, and Mohajirs, who had migrated from Bihar. The Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) managed to persuade some Mohajirs from Bihar to leave the MQM and form a new organization called the MQM (Haquiqi) meaning the real MQM. The MQM (H) was armed by the ISI and there were frequent bloody clashes between the MQM and the MQM (H).

8. The MQM has been involved in frequent clashes with the Pashtuns of the secular Awami National Party (ANP) and with the Mohajirs in the MQM (H).Karachi has more Pashtuns than even Peshawar. The Pashtuns of Karachi dominate the transport business and are prosperous. The frequent Drone strikes by the US in the Pashtun belt and the military operations of the Pakistan Army against the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have seen the influx of some Pashtun members of the TTP into Karachi to take shelter there. The MQM has been alleging that there has been a steady Talibanisation of the Pashtun community in Karachi and has been indulging in targeted attacks on the Pashtuns. However, independent sources say that the secular ANP still commands the support of the majority of the Pashtun community in Karachi.

9. Another bitter adversary of the MQM is the anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ). The Mohajirs are largely followers of the more tolerant Barelvi sect and strongly oppose the Wahabi/Deobandi group which supports the LEJ. At the time of the independence of Pakistan in 1947, a large number of well-to-do Shias from Lucknow and Hyderabad in India migrated to Karachi. They have prospered as doctors, lawyers and academics. Many of them support the MQM and hence are the targets of the LEJ.

10. Recently, there have been reports that differences had developed between Altaf and Imran Farooq, who found himself increasingly marginalized in the Party.

11. The murder of Imran Farooq has not been categorized by the London Police as an act of terrorism so far. It has to be treated for the time being as an act of murder due to political or ethnic or sectarian reasons. The fact that he was stabbed to death and not killed with a gun or an explosive device could indicate the possibility that another Mohajir might have been the assassin. Mohajirs in Karachi often prefer the use of knives for killing. If the involvement of a fellow-Mohajir is ruled out, the other suspects could be the LEJ and the TTP in that order. If it turns out that the LEJ or the TTP or both acting in tandem killed him, that should be a matter of serious concern to the British intelligence. That would show that the LEJ and the TTP have set up sleeper cells in the UK. (17-9-10)

The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies.