Loosening a Party’s Grip on Karachi, a Pakistani City Known for Violence
Hours before he was scheduled to be executed last month, the Pakistani hit man made an incendiary accusation.
Speaking into a video camera at a remote desert jail, Saulat Mirza, a death-row convict from the port city of Karachi, said his orders to kill had come from Altaf Hussain, the city’s most powerful and, until recently, untouchable political leader.
“Altaf Hussain directly gave us the murder instructions,” Mr. Mirza said in footage that was broadcast on several television news channels later that evening in March.
It was enough to earn Mr. Mirza a last-minute reprieve, as the authorities investigated his claims. Mr. Hussain, for his part, called it a conspiracy to damage his image.
But in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest and most volatile city, the accusations were seen as further evidence that the political winds were violently shifting against Mr. Hussain after decades of iron-fisted dominance.
In the last month, the civilian and military authorities, led by the Sindh Rangers paramilitary force, have begun an unparalleled assault on his authority and the network of armed street enforcers that underpins it. Mr. Hussain has been living in self-imposed exile in London for nearly a quarter-century.
On March 11, Rangers in balaclavas raided Nine Zero, the fortified headquarters of Mr. Hussain’s party, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, confiscating weapons and files. One political worker was killed by gunfire during the raid, and several others were taken into custody, some on murder charges. Read the rest of this entry »