Deputy Convener of MQM, Farooq Sattar addressing a press conference at Nine Zero. — Online Photo by Anwar Abbas
KARACHI, May 19: Charged workers of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) roughed up members of the coordination committee, some lawmakers-elect as well as some journalists during a telephonic address by party chief Altaf Hussain from London in the small hours of Sunday.
With the media barred from covering the hooliganism, witnesses said certain MQM leaders had been beaten up and they had to lock themselves up inside the party headquarters to escape the wrath of angry workers.
It all started soon after Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman Imran Khan had held Mr Hussain responsible for the killing of party leader Zahra Shahid Hussain. The MQM had called an emergency press conference and a large number of party workers also reached Nine Zero. After 2am, MQM leaders, led by Dr Farooq Sattar, came outside the party headquarters to address the press conference.
Dr Sattar told journalists that the allegation levelled by Mr Khan at the MQM chief soon after the killing of Zahra Shahid was a proof of his “political immaturity”. He condemned the killing and demanded a judicial inquiry into it, but said that blaming Mr Hussain without any evidence and in the absence of proper investigation was wrong.
He said the MQM would adopt a legal and constitutional course to deal with the PTI chief’s outrageous accusations. After the press conference, Mr Hussain started his speech and strongly criticised the PTI chief, without mentioning his name, and said he (Imran) was abusing him and the coordination committee did nothing. He criticised the committee members and said they considered him a ‘machine’.
He said he had come to know through TV channels that he was due to address the MQM workers gathered at the party headquarters. His emotions overpowered him to the extent that he started weeping. This made the workers angry and the situation went out of control.
The witnesses said a large number of workers had surrounded the MQM leaders and roughed them up. They were so charged that they even tried to storm the Nine Zero where the leaders took shelter. But the gate was locked and they could not enter it.
Some MQM workers also roughed up reporters and cameramen and forced them to stop the coverage. The hooliganism continued for some time and till Mr Hussain resumed his speech and asked the charged workers not to misbehave with the elected representatives and members of the coordination committee.
Later, a press release issued by the MQM said Mr Hussain had strongly taken notice of what it called ‘violation of discipline’ by some elements among the party workers. He condemned the act of certain individuals against members of the coordination committee and other office-bearers and asked them to submit a written apology at the Nine Zero within 24 hours. Otherwise, he said, they would not be considered as MQM workers.
Mr Hussain also expressed his sorrow over the treatment meted out to some reporters and cameramen and assured them that action would be taken against those who had misbehaved with them.
PROTEST RALLIES: Dr Sattar told a press conference on Sunday evening that the MQM would hold protest demonstrations across the country and abroad against Mr Khan from Monday for holding Mr Hussain responsible for the murder of Zahra Shahid.
He said Mr Khan had hurt the sentiments of millions of followers of Mr Hussain by hurling baseless allegations and, therefore, the coordination committee had decided to hold demonstrations against him.
“The hatred of Imran Khan against the MQM will be dealt with but in a democratic, legal and constitutional manner,” he added.
Dr Sattar alleged that the slain PTI leader had been inactive for three months and she had developed serious differences with the PTI leadership over distribution of party tickets. He said internal disputes should also be considered while investigating the case.
He said relations between Mr Khan and extremist elements were not hidden and he had been the biggest supporter of the elements which had cut throats of personnel of the armed forces.
About the re-polling in NA-250 constituency, he said a large number of voters had been deprived of their right by holding re-polling in only 43 of its polling stations. He said the low turnout had exposed the tall claims of massive public support.
“People of Defence and Clifton expressed their confidence in the MQM by staying away from the re-polling process.”
Dr Sattar said voters of 140 polling stations of NA-250 had been deprived of their right and complete partiality was shown. “The MQM rejects this farcical exercise and demands re-election in the entire NA-250,” he added.