The Muttahaida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has found itself mired in serious legal trouble, and the pressure is coming from all sides. The MQM chief Altaf Hussain made a rare public appearance, when he was interviewed for several hours by the London Metropolitan Police in relation to the money laundering case. The same day a prime suspect in the Dr Imran Farooq murder trial – in which the MQM is heavily implicated – was arrested, presented before an anti-terrorism court and placed in detention. On Wednesday a high powered Joint Investigation Team visited Mach jail to question Saulat Mirza on his allegations regarding the MQM premier. In the background of all of this, Rangers raided the MQM stronghold, nine-zero – a feat unimaginable a few years ago – and the Interior Minister met with the British High Commissioner, Philip Barton to discuss Imran Farooq’s murder case, the nine-zero raid and several other facts relevant to the MQM leader. There seems to be a distinct impression that the noose is tightening across MQM’s criminal activities.

Although the Interior Minister has denied any “secret cooperation with Britain regarding Imran Farooq murder case”, the timing of the legal crackdown by both the British and the Pakistani law enforcement agencies suggest that there has certainly been a level of coordination. It stands to reason that it has; MQM’s street power means that a singular legal crackdown initiated by the Pakistani government could have been easily politicised and thus defeated. A coordinated crackdown, which involves the British authorities as well, would be too much for street power to deflect. Firstly, it cannot hold British authorities hostage the same way it can in Karachi. Secondly, a multi-pronged attack will leave the party cadres unable to mobilise. Thirdly and most importantly, the moral weight of a multitude of implications will make street resistance unjustifiable. Not for the die-hard party members, but for the multitude of middle class Karachites that support MQM.

The Interior Minister’s statement goes on to admit that there has been coordination between the two governments, but “within the limits of our laws and the constitution”. The purpose of his statement stands moot to an extent, but it does seem that he is giving the impression that the state did not go out of its way to implicate Altaf Hussain; the British law enforcement arrived at their conclusions independently. More so than the government crackdown, this attempt to deflect some of the responsibility on the London Metropolitan Police seems a strong indicator that the authorities are convinced that Altaf Hussain’s time is near. If true, Karachi must brace itself for a turbulent period.