Saturday’s events at the Karachi Press Club (KPC) should leave no doubt in anyone’s mind about where the government stands with regards to the MQM-London/Altaf faction. Anyone that chooses to stand by the former leader of MQM is now a pariah, and this was made clear through the arrests of MQM-London’s interim Rabita Committee Convener Prof Hassan Zafar Arif, Kunwar Khalid Yunus and Amjadullah, from outside or around the KPC where they arrived for a press conference on Saturday.

While Altaf’s role as party supremo has cost both the party and the country in incalculable ways, it is unfair to marginalise anyone who chooses to support him. It is understandable that the government wanted no coverage of what Mr Hussain wanted said, but it is one thing to put a blanket ban on his speeches and another thing entirely when the state decides to (proverbially) shoot the messenger. How long will these men be held for, and on what charge?

The reaction is understandable; the government saw smoke, and it hastened to put out the fire before it got too nasty. But is this justified? Sadly, no, because MQM-London’s chief still stands unpunished, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Why must other people suffer on his account?

But there is a plus side to this as well – Farooq Sattar’s MQM-Pakistan will no doubt be emboldened by this step, for the divisiveness caused by the formation of a Pakistan chapter with a fully formulated organisational structure in Karachi would have only further complicated matters. Reports coming in from London hinted at Altaf Hussain mulling options to take over the old party headquarters at Nine-Zero, which would have dealt a symbolic blow to the Sattar et al. in terms of legitimacy.

It is clear that the state is on MQM-Pakistan’s side, as it should be. A party claiming to look after the interest of Pakistani citizens but chanting death chants against the country it is registered in is not really a political party anyway. But a line must be drawn; how far is the government going to take this? Any MQM-London members in Pakistan, that are misguided and still support Altaf Hussain should be reached out to, instead of being apprehended without so much as an excuse. This is only normal; the same offer has been extended to everyone that renounces the leadership of Mr Hussain. Unless security agencies can offer up a legitimate reason for these arrests and the subsequent detentions, they are only providing more fuel to the age-old mantra of MQM workers getting marginalised at the hands of the state.