ISLAMABAD - Would Altaf Hussain - the London-based MQM leader - quit the party he founded in 1982, after the arrest of hardened criminals and recovery of sophisticated weapons from Nine Zero during the Rangers’ raid on March 11? This is the question being discussed everywhere these days.

The situation turned more complicated when Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leadership sharply reacted against the Rangers action. Altaf Hussain , who is a British citizen since 1992, himself in his fire spitting statement from London criticised Rangers for targeting his party. He claimed the ammunition recovered was planted by Rangers personnel themselves, who carried it inside concealed in blankets.

The entire MQM leadership is now making hue and cry that their party is being singled out in the 17-month old Karachi operation being led by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah. On its part the PPP provincial government has lodged an FIR against Altaf Hussain for making hate speeches to entice violence. A copy of FIR together with related documents was handed over to British High Commissioner Philip Barton by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan which he took up with his seniors in London without loss of time.

Now everyone is guessing about the outcome of this effort. Would the British government restrain Altaf Hussain from making such speeches in future, pressure him to quit MQM or brush the issue under the carpet? These are serious questions that cannot be addressed at this point of time or at least till the British government makes any announcement to address the concerns of government of Pakistan. Thus the ball lies in the court of British government. On the other hand the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has repeatedly clarified that the ongoing operation in Karachi was not against any political party; rather, it was an across the board action launched in October 2013 with consensus of all the political parties.

This is not for the first time that Altaf Hussain’s party that stands fourth in terms of its parliamentary size in the National Assembly came under attack. Former Sindh Home Minister Dr Zulfiqar Ali Mirza had also blamed the MQM publicly of having a militant wing and its involvement in acts of terrorism. But according to him, he could not take any action because of the then President Asif Ali Zardari, presumably for political reasons.

On the other hand, former Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry after thorough investigation into rampant lawlessness in the port city blamed the political parties for having armed wings. Whatever the case may be the March 11 raid by Rangers has once again brought the MQM into such a spotlight that Altaf Hussain would no more be in a position to continue his typical politics. He is left with not many options to wriggle out the situation so comfortably as a foreign national as he has been doing in the past.

On May 20, 2013, former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan had accused Altaf Hussain of being directly involved in the murder of his party leader Zahra Shahid Hussain while the MQM chief also faces allegations of murder of his own party leader Imran Farooq, a claim under investigation by the London Metropolitan Police.

Whilst under investigation by the London Metropolitan police, Altaf Hussain was also charged with money laundering and hate speech which led to his arrest on July 3, 2013 when the police raided his house and seized approximately £1 million under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002. Altaf Hussain was interrogated on July 4, 2013 for seven hours in connection with the aforementioned money laundering case. On June 3, 2014, he was again arrested by the police on charges of money laundering. He was later released on bail on June 6, 2014, after he had being thoroughly questioned.

Now, what are the options with the government to force the MQM do away with its alleged militancy? Many believe that the government cannot think of banning the Karachi headquartered political party as it will have adverse implications. Some of the observers believe that best way forward to remedy the Karachi situation is that Altaf Hussain voluntarily step down and let the MQM workers choose their new leader.

Some conspiracy theorists are advocating for larger political role of former President General (r) Pervez Musharraf who, according to them, could disarm MQM’s militant cadres by merging his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) and MQM to tackle the problem politically, a proposition that is workable only if Altaf Hussain voluntarily steps down. Otherwise, no coercive methods would either work successfully to tame MQM workers or breaking the MQM or the shortsighted political solutions such as dividing the MQM vote bank between PPP and PTI would work in near future.