A murderous stabbing in London could have profound geopolitical consequences. Yesterday, Imran Farooq, one of the senior leaders of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) was stabbed to death in London. MQM is a major Pakistani political party representing the Mohajirs (the Muslims who left India for Pakistan in the 1948 partition.) The MQM is particular strong in Karachi where the Mohajirs are a plurality of the population and the MQM dominates the city government.
Farooq, along with the MQM’s founder Altaf Hussein ran the party from a self-imposed exile in London. In 1992, in the wake of massive fighting between the Mohajirs and the Sindh the Army cracked down on the MQM and the party leaders decamped to London.
Karachi in recent times has been prone to large-scale outbreaks of violence. Now much of the fighting is between the growing Pashtun population and the Mohajirs.
Turmoil in Karachi matters – it is the great port and economic engine for Pakistan. Karachi has frequently burst into riots over the past several years. The city is clearly tense now. Turmoil in Karachi will complicate flood relief and long-term makes it difficult for Pakistan’s economy to right itself. Considering the precarious state of the entire country, this is no small matter.
While MQM has clashed with the primary party representing the Pashtuns in Karachi (ANP – which is opposed to the Taliban) many suspect the real culprit is the Taliban and or al-Qaeda. They have the most to gain from another round of violence in Karachi – especially given its broader implications. Mohajir attacks on the Pashtuns will probably drive the Pashtuns away from the ANP and towards the Taliban.
If it is al-Qaeda/Taliban the attack in London shows a renewed global reach and, most importantly, strategic imagination. The ability to carry-out a relatively small attack that has a disproportionate impact on the society is the essence of asymmetric warfare.