Pakistan’s biggest city shuts down as protests over politician’s UK arrest spread

KARACHI, Pakistan, (Reuters) – Pakistan’s biggest city was in lockdown for a second day yesterday, with shops and markets closed and people staying home for fear of violence following the arrest in London of one of the country’s most feared men.

Altaf Hussain, leader of the powerful Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party and wanted in Pakistan in relation to a murder case, was arrested in northwest London where he has lived in self-imposed exile since the early 1990s.

Karachi, a sprawling and violent port city of 18 million, is virtually controlled by Hussain’s party, and reports of sporadic violence emerged as soon as news of his arrest reached the city.

On Wednesday, about 2,000 of his supporters rallied in the centre in support of Hussain but elsewhere the city was in lockdown, with markets and petrol stations closed and its usually chaotic and bustling streets empty of traffic.

“The people of Karachi and other big and small cities of Sindh (province) still see Altaf Hussain as their leader,” Nasir Jamal, a senior MQM official, told Reuters.

“The thrust of this protest is the release of Altaf Hussain. We are here until we see positive indications from London.”

The largely peaceful crowd sporadically burst into loud chants of slogans in support of Hussain. “Long live Altaf!” and “Even after death Altaf will continue to live!” shouted his supporters.

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