Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain on Tuesday apologised to the military establishment, including Army chief General Raheel Sharif and Sindh Director General (DG) Rangers Maj-Gen Bilal Akber, for his anti-Pakistan speech a day earlier.
“From the depth of my heart, I beg pardon from my remarks against Pakistan, the establishment, including General Raheel Sharif and DG Rangers,” Altaf said in a statement.
The MQM supremo claimed he was under severe mental stress over extra-judicial arrests and the condition of his workers sitting at the hunger strike camp set up by his party outside the Karachi Press Club.
“Being a Pakistani, I assure the Pakistani people, establishment, army, ISI, all higher authorities and leaders that I will never use such words again,” the statement read.
Altaf also regretted the violence against media houses that were attacked in the aftermath of his speech and asked for the release of MQM leaders who were later arrested.
“I request the authorities to end actions taken against MQM and do not cut the party from the national mainstream.”
Activists of the MQM ransacked a private television station before clashing with police Monday evening, leaving at least one person dead and over half a dozen injured. The rioting drew widespread condemnation from all political parties and prompted action by the paramilitary Rangers.
At least nine MQM leaders, including Dr Farooq Sattar, were detained while the party’s headquarters, Nine Zero, were also searched and subsequently sealed.
The violence erupted soon after MQM the chief gave a telephonic address to his supporters in which he castigated the media for not giving due coverage of his workers and allegedly raised anti-Pakistan slogans.
MQM activists, who had just ended a week-long hunger strike outside the Karachi Press Club (KPC) over a government crackdown against them, stormed the ARY News offices after their party leader’s address from London.
Television footage showed dozens of men and women barging into ARY’s office, smashing doors, windows and equipment with rods and batons and setting fire to several vehicles. Footage also showed shards littering the floor and TV screens ripped off the walls and flung on to the ground.
“MQM workers fired at the ARY offices and ransacked the premises,” said SSP Saqib Ismail Memon said, adding that they had been “incited by their leader”. “We have carried out teargas shelling to disperse the mob,” he added.
Staffers of Neo TV station, whose offices are located in the same building as ARY, were also beaten up. Reportedly, protesters also surrounded the offices of Samaa TV which are located on the nearby II Chundrigar Road.
On the streets, MQM activists also clashed with police who tried to stop them, sparking volleys of gunshots and tear gas in several places across the city, police and witnesses said. At least three police officers were beaten up by protesters or were pelted with stones.
Rioters proceeded to set fire to several vehicles, including a police van, and at least two motorcycles. Several other vehicles were also damaged when protesters threw stones at passing cars.
Around a dozen injured were driven to the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre. Medics said Arif Saeed, a 45-year-old man associated with MQM’s Korangi Sector, succumbed to his injuries during treatment.
Others who were brought in for treatment included Saddar DSP Kanwar Asif, Saddar SHO Pir Shabbir, Constable Qamaruz Zaman and Neo TV cameraman Rehan Noor. “The injured did not have any gunshot injuries,” a medic said.
DG Rangers Maj Gen Bilal Akbar, who visited the ARY offices, said nobody would be allowed to disturb law and order in the city. “We will arrest those who incited this violence. Those who took the law into their own hands will be taken to task,” he said while flanked by Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah.
Shah, who later hosted a high-level law and order meeting, said no one would be allowed to raise anti-Pakistan slogans or hold the citizens of Karachi hostage.
Earlier Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, while taking the notice of the situation, called the DG Rangers and asked him to arrest those involved and restore peace in the city.