Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) Chief Altaf Hussain and other party-members had been preparing supporters for the news that came out of London on Tuesday. Mr Altaf Hussain has been arrested under the charges of money laundering; a case which was initiated when the Scotland Yard ‘stumbled’ upon some evidence while investigating the murder of Mr Imran Farooq, which took place on 16 September 2010 in London. Many claim that the noose was getting tighter every passing minute, and Mr Altaf’s own prophecy concerning his possible arrest was bound to materialise sooner or later. Before we mull over the possible implications on the politics of Karachi, it is pertinent to shed some light on the politics of London.

For years, the British government has been in the line of fire for granting asylum and citizenship to Mr Hussain. The most prominent critics of Britain’s role in relation with Mr Altaf Hussain include Bradford MP George Galloway and Lord Nazir Ahmad, who have time and again accused him of a variety of crimes ranging from extortion to murder. Some of these accusations were made in the House of Commons, and yet they failed to prompt any serious debate, or action, and weren’t even picked up by the media. Such a reaction from the British government and the media, rather lack of it, is highly unlikely following allegations made in the British Parliament. Mr Hussain was granted political asylum in 1992. Since then, was Mr Hussain ever investigated by the British authorities? Did the serious allegations levelled by British politicians, citizens and Pakistanis during the last two decades prompt any enquiry? If the answer is no, then does it suggest that Mr Hussain and the British have historically enjoyed a healthy relationship despite severe pressure? Did Mr Imran Farooq’s murder put an end to that and what we are looking at now is a revised approach by the British? Some suggest that a red line was crossed. Karachi is fair game. London isn’t.

As far as Karachi is concerned, there is no doubt that it will react to Mr Hussain’s arrest. The question is how aggressively and what can be done to curtail the backlash. The first and foremost responsibility lies with the MQM leadership. Karachi must not suffer as a result of the developments in London. The MQM has the right to protest, and it should if the party believes that its leader is being treated unjustly, however, the lives and property of innocent citizens must remain safe. So far, the party’s local leadership has acted sensibly by advising its supporters to remain calm during this time of crisis. It is hoped that the coming days will see similar displays of maturity from the MQM as well as other political parties. A calm and collected MQM is in the interests of both Karachi and the party.