Altaf Hussain: The Man Dividing Opinion In Pakistan


Pakistan is divided. A decree passed by the Lahore High Court has effectively banned Altaf Hussain. It has become illegal to display any representation of him in the media. Even in the event of news about him being reported, no images or video can be shown. But what drove them to this? And why is he such a divisive and controversial figure? BRIC Plus tells you what you need to know.

Who is Altaf Hussain?

Altaf Hussain is a Pakistani politician, and a leader of the Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM), a political party. The party seeks to represent a group known as the Muhajir, the descendants of Muslims who moved from India to Pakistan at the time of the 1947 partition. He is currently living in exile in the United Kingdom.

Why is he so controversial?

The MQM is accused of using violence to advance its aims. Such is the charge, that in 2006, the party was categorised as a terrorist organisation by the Canadian government. As Altaf Hussain is the founder and leader, it is no surprise that this controversy extends to him. Hussain has been accused of using the MQM to practise ethnic politics, which have resulted in significant violence, and seen the arrest of many party members.

However, it is not only Hussain’s political affairs that have rendered him a controversial figure. The Federal Court of Canada cited the use of the proceeds of crime for financial backing in their ruling against the MQM, and financial misdealing is a charge which has followed Hussain. In 2014, Hussain was arrested in London under suspicion of money laundering. He attained British citizen in 2002, but this apparently as a result of a clerical error.

mqm2[via Express Tribune]

What does this ruling mean?

Altaf Hussain will not be shown on Pakistani media, electronic or printed. This may be an attempt to prevent his following from increasing. The showing of his speeches may galvanise his supporters, who the government fears are violent.

Why is he dividing Pakistan?

Twitter is showing just how much of a divisive figure Altaf Hussain is. The hashtag #IStandWithAltafHussain shows the opposing opinion of a section of Pakistani society.

The Muhajir population is over 20 million strong, and many feel an affinity towards the MQM and Altaf Hussain as the leader of this movement. The decision to execute a media blackout will doubtless feel like an attack on some of their fundamental political beliefs and identity. It is unlikely, however, that the media blackout will crush the MQM and Altaf Hussain’s support. Furthermore, the Lahore High Court has continued to issue arrest warrants against Hussein, and will soon debate the future of his continuing Pakistani citizenship. With rallies planned in support of the MQM and Hussain, strongly against the court decisions, it is certain that his supporters will not go quietly.


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