KARACHI - Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London (MQM-L), in a bid to show its political strength in urban Sindh, on Saturday organised a visit to Martyrs’ Monument in Azizabad to pay homage to those workers and activists of the party who had lost their lives in various operations in the city. Hundreds of MQM-L workers, including women and children, gathered at Liaquat Ali Khan Chowk, earlier known as Mukka Chowk, on Saturday afternoon to mark the Day of Martyrs on the call given by party leadership.

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Earlier, the law enforcement agencies closed down all the shops in the vicinity of Jinnah Ground besides sealing the routes leading to Azizabad by placing buses and other vehicles. Besides batons, policemen also carried with them water cannons and were mounted on armoured personnel carriers (APCs) to deal with any untoward incident.

Over 500 police personnel, including policewomen, were deployed in and around Martyrs’ Monument, whereas the shutdown created issues for the commuters and residents of the areas. The party supporters and workers stayed at Liaquat Ali Khan Chowk for some hours and raised slogans in favour of MQM chief Altaf Hussain. Later a clash ensued between police and MQM-L supporters as the latter tried to move towards Martyrs` Monument despite warnings from LEAs.  Nearly a dozen political workers, including women, were reportedly taken into custody after the situation turned violent. They were shifted to different police stations of Zone West and Central.

District Central SSP Irfan Baloch, while sharing details with the media men, said that the strategy was to stop participants from visiting the Martyrs’ Monument. “Police had detained four men and a woman, and all of them were released shortly afterwards,” the SSP informed. Furthermore, commenting on MQM-London activists’ visit to Martyrs’ Monument, Information Minister Syed Nasir Shah said, “How can the government allow the workers belonging to an anti-Pakistan party to visit Martyrs’ Monument.”

He said that those party supporters who had an anti-state agenda should be jailed. However, giving a clean chit to MQM-Pakistan (MQM-P), the minister said the party was permitted to visit the monument because it was focusing on politics of national interest.

It is worth mentioning here that Altaf Hussain’s anti-state speech on August 22, 2016 had not only dented the entire party structure in Pakistan, but had also forced MQM leadership in Pakistan to disassociate itself from the London-based leadership and carry on the politics under the banner of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, led by party’s senior leader Dr Farooq Sattar.

The London chapter since then has limited its activities while the law enforcement agencies have also dented the party structure in the urban region of Sindh. The arrests of workers and leaders not only created panic in the party ranks, but also forced most of them to switch their loyalties. The crackdown against MQM-L divided the party workers. While some of them remained in MQM-P, others took shelter in Mustafa Kamal-led Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP). It has also been learnt that the workers had switched their loyalties on the directions given by their London-based leadership.

Recently, MQM-L leader Prof Hassan Zafar came up with a demand to reopen MQM headquarters, Nine Zero, along with the direction to the workers to reach Martyrs’ Monument on Saturday, December 9 to mark the Day of Martyrs.

The message went viral on social media with a request to people to participate in the event.

On the other hand, MQM-Pakistan also held Fateha Khwani at party’s’ temporary head office in Bahadurabad in which a number of party activists, including MNA, MPAs and local government representatives participated. Homage was also paid to the martyrs at the gathering and the participants vowed to continue their struggle to keep the sacrifices given by the party’s dead alive.