MQM headquarters sealed by Pakistan forces for attacking TV station

The attack took place after Muttahida Qaumi Movement leader Altaf Hussain had criticised the media for failing to report on his worker's hunger strike. The rangers arrested the party leaders. Photograph:( Getty )

Reuters Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan Aug 23, 2016, 04.04 AM (IST)
Pakistani paramilitary troops raided headquarters of a powerful political party in Pakistan's southern city of Karachi and detained several party leaders and activists through the night and early on Tuesday (August 23) following protesters' attack on Pakistani TV station, a senior Rangers official said.

Supporters of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) fired shots at the office of a television channel in the afternoon on Monday (August 22) before ransacking the building, police said.

The protesters belonged to the MQM, senior superintendent of police Saqib Ismail said. Media reported they were angry about a lack of coverage of a hunger strike.

He said MQM workers fired shots at the ARY (News) office, ransacked the premises and set fire to a police mobile.

The Sindh province government late on Monday decided to shut down all offices of the MQM. The rangers and police carried out a search operation for four hours and sealed MQM headquarters, popularly known as Nine Zero following the raid.

Rangers recovered weapons from MQM headquarters, said sector commander of Rangers Brigadier Khurram Shehzad. MQM website was also blocked.

"During the search, we have recovered some weapons which include few SMGs and two pistols. After it's forensic test and study of the anti-state material which we have found, we will bring the facts to the media," Shehzad said.

Earlier, five MQM leaders were taken into custody by law enforcement agencies while a MQM lawmaker announced resignation following provocative speech of Altaf Hussain that led to ransacking of media houses and clashes with police.

The arrested MQM leaders included Farooq Sattar, Amir Khan, Khawaja Izhar ul Hassan, Sajid Ahmed and Amir Liaquat Hussain. Two of the leaders were released after brief interrogation, reported ARY NEWS.

More than fifty workers of MQM were also rounded up from across Karachi, Geo news reported.

The crackdown was launched after at least one person was reported killed and several others were injured during the violence.

Local media said the protesters had rushed to the office of ARY shortly after the MQM leader Altaf Hussain, who lives in exile in London, had criticised Pakistan's media in a telephone address for failing to report on his workers' hunger strikes.

The MQM has held sway over Karachi for years and law enforcement agencies, its opponents and many residents have accused it of racketeering, abduction, torture and murder in its bid to maintain power. The party denies links to crime.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called a high-level meeting today to discuss Karachi situation.