Karachi stunned by politician's London murder

The murder of a prominent Pakistani politician in London brought Pakistan's second largest city to a standstill today.

Imran Farooq - a leading member of the MQM (Muttahida Quami Movement) party - was found with head injuries and stab wounds outside his home at 5.30pm yesterday.

In Pakistan, petrol stations, schools and markets in Karachi were closed and public transport came to a halt amid fears of violence as news of the killing spread.

The MQM is one of Pakistan's major parties, the largest in the coalition governing Karachi, and an important member of the federal government in Islamabad.

The Metropolitan Police said they were called to reports of a serious assault in Green Lane, Edgware, north London.

A force spokesman said: "When officers arrived, they found an Asian male, aged 50, suffering from multiple stab wounds and head injuries.

"He was treated by paramedics at the scene but was pronounced dead at 18.37.

"The next of kin have been informed."

He added that there had been no arrests.

A section of the road where the murder took place was cordoned off and police were standing guard this morning.

People living close to the scene, in a residential area, expressed their shock.

Philippa Hamilton, 51, a recruitment worker, said she had lived in the area all her life but added: "This sort of thing has never happened here before. It's a real shock."

Mrs Hamilton, who lives 200 yards from the scene, said she heard nothing last night but was alerted to what had happened by neighbours.

She said: "It's definitely not the norm. It's a quiet, leafy road. There are lots of families. It's a very, very mixed community, all sorts of religions and nationalities, but everyone gets on very well.

"It's busy but it's usually quite quiet. It's quite a surprise."

Another neighbour, who did not give his name, said: "It's a real shock. It's quite an affluent part of town. It's pretty quiet usually."

Accountant Anthony McGuinness, 66, said: "There was a lot of commotion at about 6pm last night. I came out of work to see lots of police and vans. The road was all blocked off and we couldn't see much. The road was just full of police."

An officer at the scene in Green Lane confirmed the body had not yet been removed.

A statement on the MQM website said the party had declared a 10-day period of mourning in Pakistan and around the world.

According to reports on the site from 1999, Dr Farooq sought political asylum in the UK after a contract was taken out on his life.

He claimed allegations of criminal and terrorist activities against him were false and politically-motivated.

In November 1992 Dr Farooq said he was wanted "dead or alive".

"(This gave) licence and impunity to every individual in Pakistan to assassinate me," he said.

Dr Farooq, who was secretary general of the party at the time, said he spent more than seven years in hiding in Karachi, southern Pakistan.

He said: "It was impossible for me to remain in Pakistan due to the continued threat on my life and liberty."

Independent observers accuse the party of being involved in illegal activities and hundreds of its supporters have been killed in the past 20 years in gang warfare in Karachi.

The MQM's leader, Altaf Hussain, lives in self-imposed exile in London, but still addresses large gatherings in Karachi by telephone.

He also left Pakistan in 1992, after army generals accused the party of criminal activities.

Mr Hussain recently appeared to suggest that the country's army should rise up against the civilian government.

His comments angered his party's federal coalition partners, including the ruling Pakistan People's Party of President Asif Ali Zardari.

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