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KARACHI: Scores of loyalists of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founder Altaf Hussain took to the streets along with newly appointed Rabita Committee members in Azizabad on Thursday and went to Jinnah Ground to pay their respects at the Yadgar-i-Shuhada. However, Rangers and police denied a majority of them entry to the ground.

Although the party is said to be fast losing its grip on the local organisational structure as well as loyalty of Pakistan-based leaders, including parliamentarians, Thursday’s move is seen by many as an attempt by the London-based leaders to send a message to forces — both on and off the scene — about strong and deep attachment of workers with the MQM founder.

It all started in the second half of the day when the newly appointed Rabita Committee announced that it would visit Yadgar-i-Shuhada in Azizabad to offer Fateha and pay tribute to “martyrs” of the party.

Already under heavy presence of law enforcement agencies, the security around the neighbourhood was further tightened with deployment of dozens of Rangers and police personnel from Mukka Chowk to Jinnah Ground.

Then emerged scores of MQM workers, including men, women and children, chanting slogans in favour of the party and Mr Hussain. Routine life and business activities in the area remained suspended and traffic was diverted to alternative routes.

The situation turned tense when Rangers personnel refused to allow the party leaders and workers to enter Jinnah Ground. After more than hour-long debate and arguments between the two sides, Rangers allowed women and some aged workers of the party and Rabita Committee member Kunwar Khalid Younus to enter the ground for Fateha and asked others to disperse peacefully.

The crowd agreed but kept chanting slogans outside the ground and the area almost became a rally venue of the party.

The London-based leaders criticised Rangers for not giving the “loyalists” of Altaf Hussain access to Jinnah Ground and counted it a success of “real and only MQM”.

“R [are] U [you] still planning 2 [to] eliminate MQM,” London-based party leader Wasay Jalil twitted over the Thursday event. “Guess what answer is? NO. 2day [today] loyalists of QT [Quaid-i-Tehreek] Altaf Hussain (and) workers have proved again,” he said.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2016