KARACHI: On Saturday nights, the lanes of Clifton’s Block 4 are thronged by cars ferrying diners to the newest must-visit eatery. This weekend, a handful of police mobiles and an armoured personnel carrier also parked themselves in the intersecting Defence Housing Authority Phase V area, along with the neighbourhood’s newest resident: Mohajir Qaumi Movement-Haqiqi (MQM-H) leader Afaq Ahmed.
Ahmed has been operating out of Landhi since his release from jail last November, but there have been several episodes of harassment of and attacks on MQM-H workers in the area. As a result, party information secretary Aleem Ahmed Khan says, a “strange environment had been created in Landhi.”
“We could not meet, move freely or invite anyone. Now that we are in Defence, politicians and party workers and civil society members can easily meet Afaq Ahmed,” he told The Express Tribune. “Our concern is not for ourselves but for our visitors.” The party has also consistently asked for Ahmed to be given security.
But Phase V residents worry that despite the change of address; threats to Ahmed may follow him to Defence and others could be drawn into the inevitable violence. As with any other area that has a high-profile political figure in its midst, the steady stream of political workers, visitors and security personnel not only causes traffic issues but makes the area volatile during political crises.
“Our relatives and friends are scared to come here now,” said a resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity. The manager of one of the businesses in the area refused to comment given the sensitivity of the issue.
Ahmed’s plan is to spend four days a week in the DHA residence and three days in Landhi. His family is also moving in with him to the 700-yard, four bedroom house in DHA Phase V. The house is reportedly owned by an ex-naval officer and rent falls in the Rs90,000 to Rs100,000 range. “We cannot afford to buy property for now,” MQM-H’s Aleem Ahmed Khan said.
There is a visible contingent of police officers and vehicles at the house but when Khan was asked about the security detail provided to Afaq Ahmed, he said it was “next to nothing”.
Clifton’s Block 4 has emerged in the last couple of years as the hip new area to open eateries and shops. Once a sleepy neighbourhood with the odd high-profile residence as well as the Kuwait Consulate, the area is now home to several restaurants, including Cafe Flo, Xander’s Cafe, Forty 4 and Koel, as well as the Ensemble clothing store and upscale beauty salons. Federal ministers, government advisors and CEOs are regulars at the local establishments, often spotted with an entourage of security guards in tow.
The constituency (NA-250) which includes Clifton and DHA is currently held by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s Khushbakht Shujaat. In 2002-2007, the seat was held by the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal. The Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf is hoping to win this seat and the two provincial seats associated with it in the next general elections, and the Jamaat-e-Islami also hopes to recapture the vote bank it once had in the area.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 24th, 2012.