In this photo taken in September 9, 1999, Pakistani Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Secretary-General Imran Farooq (L) laughs with party founder Altaf Hussain (R) during his press conference in London, announcing his escape from Pakistan after seven years in hiding. Farooq, who was seeking political asylum in the United Kingdom, was parliamentary leader in the Pakistani National Assembly when he went into hiding during the military operation against Mohajirs and the MQM party in June 1992. - AFP Photo

KARACHI Dr Imran Farooq, a founding leader of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the organisation's first secretary general, was assassinated in London on Thursday evening. Dr Farooq also served as the party's only convener.

On Friday, MQM leader Farooq Sattar said the void that has been created with the death of Imran Farooq cannot be filled. He further said that Scotland Yard and London police had contacted the MQM to assist in the investigations.

Television reports, quoting party and family sources, said Dr Farooq was attacked by some unidentified men with daggers near his London residence. He died of multiple wounds.

But according to one source, a lone assailant had been lying in wait inside the apartment block where Dr Farooq lived on the first floor. He was attacked with a knife when he was climbing the stairs. He died on the spot.

At first the MQM leadership tried to keep the murder under wraps. Meetings in different cities to mark the 57th birthday of the party's founding leader, Altaf Hussain, were suddenly cancelled for “unavoidable reasons” and supporters were told by senior leader Dr Farooq Sattar to go home.

Tens of thousands of people had assembled in different places in Karachi, Hyderabad and other towns in Sindh to celebrate their leader's birthday.

At the same time, the MQM leadership in Karachi and London went into closed-door sessions to discuss the situation arising out of the development. Reports from London said the police had cordoned off the apartment block and preliminary investigations had begun.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack so far and no arrests have been made.

Dr Imran Farooq is remembered by Muttahida loyalists as one of the key figures who laid the foundation for the All Pakistan Mohajir Students' Organisation (APMSO), which eventually turned out to be a forerunner of the MQM.

During the early 1980s, the APMSO was converted into a fully fledged political party to advocate the cause of the Urdu-speaking popuce, mainly in Karachi and other parts of urban Sindh.

With Altaf Hussain as its leader, the bespectacled Dr Farooq was appointed secretary general of the party. He was also regarded as one of the main ideologues and the brain behind education of the party cadre.

When in 1992 Altaf Hussain went into self-imposed exile in the wake of a military crackdown, Dr Farooq went underground in Karachi, running the party from hiding. Although he was declared absconder by the then government, he continued to dodge the authorities.

Eventually he managed to slip out of the country on a fake passport and under an assumed name. After arriving in London, he applied for political asylum.

In the initial years he was one of the main players who helped Altaf Hussain oversee the party's restructuring from London.

However, a couple of years ago differences emerged, sending Dr Farooq into obscurity. Since then he had been living the life of a recluse, with no role in party affairs.

Even then his brutal killing sent the Muttahida rank and file into a daze, leaving them searching for answers.

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