Twenty-three years since he was last issued one, Mr Hussain has contacted the Pakistani High Commission in London for a new Pakistani passport. Whether this means he will be relinquishing his British citizenry is unknown. Perhaps Altaf Bhai plans to obtain the much-maligned dual nationality, so popular in Pakistan’s political circles, but before one is to consider what Altaf Hussain MNA could possibly mean for Pakistan, a measured and clear-eyed assesment of the MQM boss’ recent travel history is necessary.

In self-exile since 1991, Mr Hussain’s opinions on issues of note in Pakistan have remained audible and visible — quite literally, through widely televised telephone, and more recently, Skype calls — in his once-home country. Most recently, he has spoken out against the Pakistan Political Ordinance, challenged the government strategy of talks with the Taliban and launched a spirited defence of the on-trial retired General Musharraf.

With the MQM a potent political force in Karachi, and an influential ally or opponent in the National and Sindh assemblies, it’s local leadership is to be commended for retaining their position, even without Mr Hussain. Mr Hussain has often announced an intention to return to Pakistan, often in public speeches to packed crowds. Each time he has been held back by none other than his own party faithful, fearful of threats to his life, should he make good on his promise. This protective apprehension has kept Mr Hussain firmly ensconced in his London residence, with his loyal followers insisting on inflicting the deprivation of his leadership on themselves, in favour of the greater good.

With party stalwarts maintaining order in the ranks, and one call from Mr Hussain shutting down a city like Karachi, the MQM chief has little to worry about when opponents issue taunts about remote control politics from London. Order and discipline in the MQM is exemplary. Mr Hussain is unlikely to think that these sneers are inspired by anything more than envy — if remote control politics were that easy, Hyde Park to Surrey Palace would enjoy a greater population of resident Pakistanis.

Mr Hussain ‘s and the MQM’s concerns for his security are not without reason and should be taken seriously. Most recently the kidnappings of party workers in Karachi prompted a press conference at Nine-Zero. Were the MQM chief to stand in the same ranks — no matter how rife with danger — as those who have worked tirelessly in his absence to not just maintain, but increase the party’s influence, he will earn only the unending respect of his party brethren. If that means relinquishing British citizenship and picking up a green passport like the rest of us, it is a choice worth making and worthy of appreciation.