Karachi mayor-elect: Will run city from prison cell

Waseem Akhtar gestures while speaking to the media on Wednesday. Photograph:( Reuters )

WION Karachi, Pakistan Aug 25, 2016, 02.04 AM (IST)
Waseem Akhtar, the mayor elect of Karachi, one of Pakistan's largest and most populous cities, vowed on Wednesday to run the city from his prison cell after he was detained last month on allegations that he helped militants and criminals. 

Akhtar's Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had  swept the local elections in December, but was prevented from taking office because of delays in finalising local council elections in parts of the city. The final voting took place on Wednesday.

He arrived in an armoured police vehicle at the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation building to vote in elections that give MQM a secure lead.

"Thank you Karachi, which has gone through this election in such difficult times," Akhtar said after he voted, according to media reports.

"It will go down in history that such an election has never before taken place in Pakistan."

Under Pakistan law, politicians can govern from police custody but there is still ambiguity over how Akhtar will run the city from a prison cell. According to media reports, he is not expected to be released before taking his oath, the ceremony for which might take place on August 30.

Media reports also quoted Akhtar’s lawyer saying that the new mayor would run Karachi through video link for the whole term of office if necessary.

Akhtar has reportedly said that he would ask the chief minister of Sindh to allow him to open an office in jail and make "new rules" so that people can access him.

MQM has dominated Karachi, which is also Pakistan’s richest city, for decades but a paramilitary crackdown since 2013 has chipped away its power base.

A number of MQM members were arrested last year after being accused of murder, torture and racketeering. The party however denies any link to crime and accuses security forces of extra-judicial killing of its members,

Senior Karachi-based members in the  MQM pledged this week  to reduce the influence of the party’s London-based leader, Altaf Hussain, who on Monday urged supporters to attack the office of a TV channel in clashes that left one dead.