x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Imran Khan claims opposition responsible for party member's murder

PTI leader tweets that the head of the MQM publicly threatened supporters of his party before the assassination of the vice-president of his women's wing, Zahra Hussain. Taimur Khan reports from Islamabad

The body of Zahra Shahid Hussain, vice-president of the women's wing of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Sindh, Karachi, is carried by supporters.
The body of Zahra Shahid Hussain, vice-president of the women's wing of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Sindh, Karachi, is carried by supporters.
ISLAMABAD // Cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan has accused a rival of ordering the murder of a member of his party in an upscale Karachi neighbourhood.

The vice president of the women's wing of Mr Khan's Movement for Justice (PTI) was gunned down the day before voters recast their ballots in a constituency plagued by allegations of rigging by the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) in the May 11 general elections.

Police said Zahra Shahid Hussain, 59, was shot dead after three men on a motorcycle tried to steal her purse outside her house.

Mr Khan took to his Twitter account hours after the shooting on Saturday to blame the MQM and its leader, Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in London.

"I hold Altaf Hussain directly responsible for the murder as he had openly threatened PTI workers and leaders through public broadcasts," he said.

He also blamed the British government because he had warned them about "Altaf Hussain after his open threats to kill PTI workers".

Mr Khan was referring to two speeches given by Mr Hussain to his followers in Karachi after the poll and the allegations of rigging. In the speeches Mr Hussian threatened PTI supporters and said that the city should secede from Pakistan if MQM's mandate was not honoured.

"I am about to set free my enraged followers if opposition against our party is not stopped," Mr Hussain said after thousands of PTI supporters gathered to protest in Karachi the day after the elections.

The London Metropolitan Police said they had received thousands of complaints by British and Pakistani citizens over the speech but it was unclear whether a formal investigation had been launched.

After Mr Khan's accusations on Saturday, MQM's senior leadership in Karachi held an emergency meeting and news conference at their headquarters. Farooq Sattar, an MP and the party's most senior leader in Pakistan, called for a judicial inquiry into Hussain's murder, but also lashed out at Mr Khan over his allegations.

Mr Sattar said there were many possible motives for the killing, including robbery and Hussain's Shiite religion. Dozens of Shiites have been targeted by sectarian groups in recent months.

Mr Sattar said the MQM planned to file defamation lawsuits against Mr Khan.

Hussain's death was the latest in a particularly bloody election in Karachi as ethnic-based parties, criminal gangs and militant groups have resorted to violence over the years to win influence in Pakistan's most-populous city.

But voters in the district came out yesterday to recast their ballots as 5,000 security personnel were deployed at the polling stations.

Turnout was estimated at 40 per cent and election officials said there were no reports of the widespread irregularities alleged last weekend.

The MQM boycotted yesterday's vote leaving the PTI as the only major party on the ballot contesting the one national assembly seat and two assembly seats in Sindh province. The MQM won 18 out of the 19 national assembly seats from Karachi last week.

The results will have little effect on the overall outcome at the provincial level in Sindh, or the national level, which was won overwhelmingly by Nawaz Sharif's faction of the Pakistan Muslim League. While the PTI failed to win many seats in Karachi, it took the second largest share of votes, including large numbers in areas long dominated by the MQM, taking the party by surprise.

The PTI has never been a political power in the city but if it can sustain the coalition of voters it pulled together, it could emerge as the MQM's most potent rival.

"The [PTI] is a complex blend of anti-MQM political workers, supported by voters of the upper and middle classes, who had found an avenue in the PTI to challenge the MQM inside Karachi," Adnan Ahmad, a professor of political science at Karachi University, told The Friday Times, a weekly news magazine. "That is something the MQM realised too late."


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