Karachi sits on ethnic powder keg

Over the long run, demographic changes — particularly the arrival of Pasthuns from the country’s restive northwest who are denounced by the MQM for their “Talebanization” of the city — together with internal dissent could threaten the party’s hegemony.

For more than two decades, Altaf Hussain has wielded control of this freewheeling, violent city of 20 million half a world away from his drab London suburb home.

His arrest on Tuesday by British police has left Pakistan’s biggest city on edge and fueled questions about the future of his political machine.

His fiercely loyal supporters revere him, while critics accuse him of running his party as a violent mafia-like organization.

Party workers appeared to be in a state of shock Wednesday at a protest rally organized on the main thoroughfare of this city and attended by thousands. Kashif Ahmed Shaikh, a diehard party supporter, showed off razor-blade cuts on his upper arms.


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