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Stabbed exiled Pakistani politician 'living normal life'

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 17 September 2010

A prominent political figure in Pakistan who was found dead in north London was "living a normal life" in the UK, a colleague tells Channel 4 News as police launch a murder inquiry into his death.

Dr Imran Farooq, a founding member of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Pakistan's third largest political party, was found with head injuries and stab wounds in Edgware yesterday evening. (Getty)

Dr Imran Farooq, a founding member of the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) Pakistan's third largest political party, was found with head injuries and stab wounds in Edgware yesterday evening.

A murder investigation by detectives from Scotland Yard's homicide and serious crime command began this morning with a meeting of senior investigators, known as a "gold group".

But a Metropolitan Police spokeswoman would not confirm or deny reports that the investigation had since been taken over by SO15, Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism unit.

Police were called to Green Lane shortly before 5.30pm following reports of a serious assault.

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

He said the man was treated by paramedics at the scene but was pronounced dead just after 6.30pm. He confirmed that the police have made no arrests in connection with the incident.

The spokesman insisted that no formal identification had taken place, but MQM has confirmed that Dr Farooq was the victim and declared a ten-day period of mourning.

Describing Dr Farooq, Raza Haroon, a member of the MQM central co-ordination committee, said the party has lost one of its "most senior and experienced people".

The dangers of Pakistani politics
Pakistani politics is a dangerous business, as the assassination of many leading figures has testified, writes Channel 4 News international editor Lindsey Hilsum.

Now, it seems, that violence has come to London with the stabbing to death of Imran Farooq.

Mr Farooq was a founder member of the MQM, the Karachi based party which represents 'mohajirs', Urdu-speaking people who migrated from India to Sindh province at the birth of Pakistan in 1947. In the 1980s, they held power in Karachi, but were accused of involvement in criminal networks, carrying out torture, extortion and murder.

A government crackdown, known as Operation Clean Up resulted in some 8,000 deaths. Mr Farooq was on the run for seven years, fleeing to the UK in 1999 on a fake passport. He was given asylum even though the Pakistani police said he was wanted not because of his politicial affiliation, but because he had committed serious crimes.

He joined the leader of the MQM, Altaf Hussein, who fled here in 1992. The MQM website says: "Altaf Hussain now lives in London, where party workers would like to see him insulated from the death squads of Pakistan."

Last month another MQM leader, Reza Haider, was shot dead in Karachi while attending a funeral. These days, the MQM's main rivals in Karachi are Islamist political groups, whose membership is primarily Pashtun. In the violence which followed Mr Reza's killing, several Pashtuns were killed.

Today is Altaf Hussain's 57th birthday, but all celebrations in London and Karachi have been cancelled as party members start ten days of mourning. British police have yet to arrest anyone in connection with Mr Farooq's murder.

Mr Haroon added: "It is a tragedy and absolutely terrible. We will never be able to recover from this."

Mr Haroon said Dr Farooq's wife and two sons, who live just a short distance from the scene of murder, spent several hours speaking with detectives last night.

But he said the circumstances of the murder were unclear and it was too early to say if it was a targeted attack.

He said: "The main reason he came to live in London was to seek asylum. The threat was there and he was very much aware of it.

"Nobody could really have thought that this act of violence could happen in London, but at this moment we do not know what happened."

He added: "The family was in shock and we cannot imagine how they are feeling. Members of our party have done their best to get in touch and support them."

Mr Haroon said party leader Altaf Hussain has called for party workers and others in Pakistan to remain peaceful.

Dr Farooq was a founding member of MQM and has held several senior party posts. When state operations commenced against MQM in 1992, Imran Farooq was one of the main leaders in Pakistan.

An MQM spokesman told Channel 4 News that Dr Farooq had spent seven years in hiding, fearful for his life, but he managed to escape Pakistan in 1999 and sought asylum in London.

The spokesperson said that during his time in London he was "living a normal life".

MQM member Mohammad Anwar, who knew Dr Farooq for 25 years, said his killing had come as a "huge surprise".

He refused to be drawn on suggestions that the murder may have been politically motivated but said: "This does not seem to be a robbery or burglary."

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