The Assassination of Dr. Imran Farooq

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Context

One of the founding members of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was killed in London on September 16, 2010. The assassination of political leaders
is nothing new in Pakistan; however, killing of a prominent figure in asylum has set a dangerous precedent. T
he focus of Scotland Yard is reportedly on political and terrorism related motives. To solve the murder, however, a whole array of international interests would have to be explored as well.

Analysis

It is quite likely the conclusion of the investigation would point to a mugging attempt that got out of control, and led to the untimely death of Imran Farooq. Nonetheless, eliminating of notable personalities in asylum is not a new phenomenon.

Generally important dissidents who seek foreign refuge are people who feel threatened in their country of origin, due to their political views or quarrels with the government in power. The foreign governments that provide these controversial personalities safe havens do so either because of past association, humanitarian reasons, or possible future value.

There have been recently a couple of incidents where political dissidents were assasinated in a foreign country, allegedly by the authorities of their native country. Consider the recent murder of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai, carried out by Mossad, and with the help of Israeli diplomats in different countries, including Europe. The event created considerable international uproar. In late 2009, defected Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was poisoned to death by a radioactive substance in London, supposedly for being a harsh critic of Putin. In an earlier event a Ukrainian politician Viktor Yushchenko was poisoned for criticizing Kremlin as well.

The murder of Imran Farooq could thus be linked to either the internal politics of Pakistan or international dynamics. Similarly, it could also be associated with the internal party politics or leadership tussles. Dr. Imran had for some years moved away from the party, and the reason according to some were differences with party chairman, Altaf Hussain.

Additionally, Altaf had recently made comments against the coalition government of Pakistan Peoples Party, of which it is a member. He called for a revolution against the feudal system in the country, creating considerable angst in Pakistan.

According to media reports, foreign elements including Taliban are consistently attempting to destabilize Karachi and the economic center of Pakistan, by inciting ethnic strife. Although, the focus of the Scotland Yard’s investigation would be on links to Pakistan, the involvement of an external hand cannot be ruled out. The murder of Imran Farooq if linked to Pakistan, will possibly create further polarization of the emerging political landscape.

Moreover, the position of MQM in Pakistan is harshly anti-Taliban, and the party has claimed the slow Talibanization of Karachi is taking place. This has been vehemently denied by the Pushtun population of the city, represented by Awami National Party (ANP). On the other hand, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has repeatedly asserted the organization is working on developing the ability to strike enemies overseas. Media in UK has made this linkage more noticeably because it carries larger implications for the country. Nonetheless, the murder of Dr. Imran sends a clear and powerful message to past and present Pakistani political dissidents in UK, they are no longer out of reach.

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