Pakistan’s Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has requested India to provide him asylum. He has made a special request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in this regard from London, where he currently lives in exile. In October 2019, Hussain pleaded not guilty after being charged in an incendiary speech case by the Metropolitan Police. Hussain has been a popular leader in Pakistan for more than three decades.
Born in a middle-class family in September 1953, his family moved to Karachi from Uttar Pradesh at the time of partition. This group comprising millions of Urdu-speaking people is known as the ‘Mohajir community’ in Pakistan. When he was a pharmacy student, he became active in the student politics scene. As the Mohajir community began losing its initial importance after the 1970s, it began to express an increasing sense of insecurity. This sentiment was effectively tapped by Hussain. In 1984, he formed the MQM which became a major political force in 1988 by becoming the third-largest party in the national legislature.
However, he faced a major setback after the Pakistani Army ordered a major crackdown on MQM in the early 1990s. Accused in a murder case, Hussain fled Pakistan and requested asylum from the United Kingdom. Years later, he gained citizenship of the UK. Nevertheless, he would address huge rallies in Pakistan via telephone and continued to have a major influence over the politics of Karachi.
In 2016, owing to the alleged pressure from the Pakistani military establishment, the MQM was forced to publicly sever its connection from Hussain. But an MQM faction headed by him continues to operate from abroad. The MQM chief has been quite vocal with his criticism of the Pakistani army in purportedly rigging the 2018 General elections in Pakistan. But the MQM faction in Pakistan not only won 7 seats but also joined the Imran Khan-led government.