The British government denied on Monday reports suggesting Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain’s purported detention by British authorities, while an MQM statement said Hussain was hospitalised in London.
“There is no truth in such reports,” British High Commissioner Adam Thomson told reporters at a ceremony for Pakistani Paralympics athletes in Islamabad.
He was reacting to speculations that the MQM leader had been caught trying to leave for South Africa at London’s Heathrow Airport. Reports also quoted Altaf Hussain as having told British authorities that “he was going to South Africa for security reasons”.
These claims coincided with a spate of allegations against the MQM levelled by former senior minister Zulfiqar Mirza who accused the party of being behind the ongoing bloodshed in Karachi.
Mirza alleged that the MQM was working “on an American agenda to disintegrate Pakistan”.
He also claimed that in 2001, Altaf Hussain had written up a letter to then Britain’s prime minister Tony Blair against the Inter-Services Intelligence.
The British diplomat, however, said he did not know anything about the purported letter, adding that Blair was more qualified to answer questions in this regard.
The MQM and Interior Minister Rehman Malik have already denied reports of Altaf Hussain’s arrest.
Members of MQM’s coordination committee also appealed the people to remain calm and not respond to rumours. The committee thanked President Asif Ali Zardari, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and other people for expressing concern for Hussain’s health.
According to an MQM statement, Hussain became sick a week ago but “is now recovering”.
(With additional reporting by our correspondent in Karachi)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 30th, 2011.