KARACHI - Karachi police charged MQM chief Altaf Hussain with treason and inciting terrorism yesterday while his most-trusted deputy for years vowed to sideline him a day after his anti-state remarks and workers’ attacks on media houses.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement Senior Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar disassociated himself and the entire party in Pakistan from the anti-country slogans and speeches by Altaf Hussain as well as the attacks on media houses in Karachi.

Addressing a crowded press conference along with Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly Khawaja Izharul Hassan, Nasreen Jalil, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and other parliamentarians, Farooq Sattar said now the MQM would be operated from inside Pakistan and all decisions would be taken by the party leadership in the country.

Rangers personnel also sealed the party’s headquarters, a day before the city council was due to elect imprisoned MQM member Waseem Akhtar as mayor.

MQM activists clashed with police and ransacked a private television station in Karachi on Monday leaving at least one man dead and seven others injured. The violence erupted soon after Altaf Hussain gave a telephone address to supporters from London in which he castigated the media for not giving due coverage to his workers.

According to a police report, seen by AFP, he chanted “down with Pakistan” and called the country a “bastion of terrorism”.

On Tuesday, Altaf’s second-in-command Farooq Sattar, who was also briefly arrested after Monday’s violence, said the MQM “completely disowns” Altaf’s statements, accusing him of repeatedly embarrassing the party. “We have decided to address his mental tension, or illness, or whatever condition he is suffering from,” he said.

“The MQM cannot afford to suffer this damage time and time again,” he said, explaining what he claimed was a party decision to take control away from Altaf Hussain . “It is MQM Pakistan, so it should be operated from Pakistan,” he added.

“There were certain things that were intolerable and could not be defended, so now it has been decided that since the MQM chief is suffering from stress and other mental issues, he needs to resolve these issues first,” he said. “Whatever reasons are given for these statements, it keeps happening repeatedly and must stop now,” he added.

“We disown the provocative speeches and attacks on media houses and also disown those who are involved in such activities,” he averred.

He said the MQM could not tolerate these repeated mistakes and asserted these provocative and intolerable speeches would not be repeated from the Muttahida platform. “Anti-Pakistan and anti-army speeches will be given no space on the MQM platform,” he affirmed.

He said their ancestors had given sacrifices for this homeland and they were Pakistanis before the creation of this homeland. “If anyone casts suspicions upon our loyalty and love for the country, we will return the same tone,” he declared.

He said: “Now we have decided to take control of the things and the message has also been conveyed to London that since we are facing repercussions of the decisions taken from outside Pakistan, we will decide the future course of the party decisions.”

He said they had never opposed operation in Karachi or Rangers powers. Instead, it was due to their efforts that action was launched against criminals and terrorists in the city.

“It is our stated policy that we neither support any violence nor do we back the elements who are involved in these types of activities,” he said.

He asserted the missing people should be recovered from their houses and not from a party office in DHA. “We will continue to extend our support to law-enforcing authorities for peace in the city and ensure to further strengthen the image that the Karachi operation was not against political parties; instead, it was against the criminals and terrorists,” he said.

He hoped MQM headquarters, Nine Zero, and other local offices would be reopened after they had disowned the speeches against Pakistan.

He also congratulated MQM-nominated candidates for mayors and deputy mayors in Karachi, Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas for their likely success in the polls to be held on Wednesday (today).

Speaking on the occasion, MQM leader Amir Liaquat said they could not tolerate this language against the country, adding repeated apologies over the issue were not acceptable.

“We cannot leave the Karachiites alone in this situation and I know very well their condition as I faced a similar condition yesterday when I was alone defending the party in talk shows,” he said.

The MQM lawmakers also chanted “Pakistan Zindabad” and “Long Live Pakistan” slogans in the end of the press conference.

Altaf Hussain issued an apology Tuesday for his comments. In a statement issued from London on Tuesday, Altaf asked for forgiveness from the army and Rangers chiefs. “From the depth of (my) heart, I beg pardon from the Pakistani establishment,” he said. “I was under severe mental stress over extrajudicial arrests and (the) precarious condition of my workers sitting at (a) hunger striking camp.”

Previous charges have not resulted in action or extradition requests against Altaf, who has lived in London since fleeing a military operation against his party in 1992 and is a British citizen.

Earlier this year another party stalwart also turned on Altaf. Mustafa Kamal, a former MQM mayor of Karachi, broke away to form his own political party, taking several party leaders with him.

Altaf was arrested in June 2014 by British police on suspicion of money laundering charges, but later released on bail, leading to speculation that his once cosy ties with London - who viewed his party as a bulwark against Taliban terrorism - were fraying. As well as the money-laundering case, British police are also probing the murder of MQM politician Imran Farooq in London in 2010.

AAMIR LIAQUAT ANNOUNCES TO QUIT MQM

Religious scholar Amir Liaquat Hussain announced to quit MQM in the wake of Altaf Hussain’s anti-Pakistan speech. “From now onwards I am not a member of MQM,” Aamir told media, adding he has been under pressure since yesterday and he cannot bear it any further.

He also advised MQM chief Altaf Hussain to part ways with the politics. “If Altaf Hussain doesn’t have control on the words he speaks, he should quit politics,” the religious scholar said.