Mob storms & ransacks Pakistani TV channel on UK-based opposition leader’s ‘orders’ (VIDEO)
One person was reportedly killed and five more injured after an enraged mob supporting an exiled regional leader stormed into the office of a private TV broadcaster in the southern city of Karachi on Monday. Police deployed tear gas to disperse the rioters.
An office of the ARY News private channel in the crowded Saddar area of Karachi was attacked by a violent group of partially masked men with bats who are believed to be adherents of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party dissatisfied with the channel’s lack of interest in their hunger strike.
Witnesses claim the perpetrators began smashing down everything on their way, as seen on the footage that surfaced on social media, were incited by their leader and party founder Altaf Hussain.
Hussain, who has been permanently residing in the UK since he was granted political asylum there in 1992, allegedly called on his supporters in Pakistan “to storm the offices of TV channels” that refuse to cover his party’s political action.
"They are Muttahida people. He [Altaf] ordered them to do it and within 10 minutes all this happened,” an ARY anchor Kashif Abbasi told Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper.
The intruders appear to have inflicted serious damage upon the interiors, with photos of shattered glass scattered everywhere on the floor and vandalized furniture and office equipment revealing the aftermath.
Pakistani security forces had to resort to tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the mob which, in its turn, clashes with police.
“MQM workers pelted stones at police officials and the ARY office,” police said in a statement, as cited by Dawn. Several vehicles, including a police van and motorcycle were as set ablaze by the mob.
As result of the skirmishes at least one person, identified as Arif Saeed, died and five were injured. Clashes also disrupted the traffic which is typically heavy in the part of the city near the market, where the channel’s office is located.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dubbed the raid “an attack on freedom of press and expression” while ordering the local and federal authorities to capture the perpetrators in order to bring them to justice and reinstall order.
However, the MQM denies it provoked the outbreak of violence in the city, with its spokesman Wasay Jalil telling BBC from London that “the MQM supporters did not commit any violence," as they “were there to protest peacefully against the media trial of MQM.”
Before the events took a violent turn, the MQM supporters were staging a hunger strike near the local press club as a response to the alleged attacks by security forces on the party members.
Meanwhile, Sindh Rangers, Pakistan paramilitary forces, took into custody several senior commanders of the party who were preparing to held a press conference following the TV station attack in Karachi. Farooq Sattar and Khawaja Izharul Hasan were forced to comply with Rangers’ orders and proceed to their headquarters after confronted by them just ahead of the press conference.
After that the Rangers reportedly raided the party’s headquarters in Karachi’s Azizabad neighborhood, detaining another nine party members, including senior officials.
The office in Azizabad and several other party buildings have been sealed by police.
"We don’t want the common citizens of Karachi to suffer any harm or losses...a certain segment is inciting the security forces to violence but we will not fall into their trap,” Rangers said in reference to the measures against the MQM, as cited by Dawn.
Muttahida Quami Movement was founded in 1984 by Altaf Hussain as the Muhajir Qaumi Movement to represent “muhajirs”, Urdu-speaking Muslim immigrants from the territory of the modern India. Later it changed the name to Muttahida (“United”) to speak for all the ethnic groups in Pakistan. Nevertheless, the party’s portrayal is tainted with controversy over the accusations of violence linked to racketeering, drug trafficking, land theft, thrown at it by local residents and political opponents alike. Since 2006, the MQM is banned in Canada, where it is regarded a terrorist organization. In 2013, the London police carried out a raid on the Hussain’s apartment, recovering £1 million ($1.3 million) under the Proceeds of Crime Act. In 2014, he was arrested in connection with money laundering and released on bail.