I wrote a feature for Vice Magazine about Altaf Hussain, the leader of Pakistan’s MQM party, who runs his party by “remote control” from Edgware in north London. He is currently being investigated by the UK police after allegations of money laundering and inciting violence.
You can read the piece (which also features a couple of my photographs) over at the Vice website, and here’s the opening:
One day in December 2012, tens of thousands of people gathered in Karachi, Pakistan’s mega-city. The speaker was not on stage, instead addressing his rapt audience over the phone. The disembodied voice rang out through loud-speakers. “If your father won’t give us freedom – and just listen to this sentence carefully – then we will tear open your father’s abdomen. To get our freedom, we will not only tear it out of your father’s abdomen but yours as well.”
The crowd were supporters of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), a political party representing Mohajirs – the people who migrated from India to Pakistan at the time of Partition in 1947. The speaker was Altaf Hussain, the party’s founder, incongruously addressing the crowd from his house in the North London suburb of Edgware. Hussain commands fanatical support from around 4 million Mohajirs, all of whom desire increased rights for their ethnic group, and the MQM operates mainly on the force of his personality. As such, Hussain retains a tight grip, and has run his party remotely from London for more than 20 years.