Karachi: Jailed leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement in Pakistan was on Wednesday elected as Karachi's new mayor by a big margin with his party sweeping the local municipal elections.
The MQM nominees grabbed the Mayor and deputy Mayor's positions in the two major cities of southern Sindh province, Karachi and Hyderabad by big margins and also grabbed sizeable seats in the municipal corporations in other districts of the province underlining the party's strong roots and popularity among the urdu-speaking population in Sindh.
Waseem Akhtar who is facing a trial and is in jail custody in a case pertaining to the violent clashes among different political workers on 12 May, 2012 on the streets of Karachi in a conciliatory tone said bygones should be bygones. He also asked the commander of the paramilitary Rangers in Sindh to work with the MQM in restoring law and order and peace in the province and Karachi.
The MQM has come under intense pressure this week after a diatribe by its leader, Altaf Hussain at a hunger strike camp outside the Karachi press club led to violence and nationwide condemnation over his anti-Pakistan comments.
Shortly after Hussain's speech, the Rangers cracked down on the party, arresting and detaining senior leaders of the MQM which its detractors claim is ethnic based party. One day after Hussain's speech, senior leaders of the party including Farooq Sattar in whose name the party is registered with the election commission distanced themselves from the coordination committee headed by Hussain which operates from London.
Sattar made it clear that in future all policy decisions would be made from Pakistan and not from London prompting Hussain to also distance himself from party affairs in a statement on Wednesday.
Akhtar one of the most recognisable and senior leaders of the MQM said enough blood had been shed in Karachi. "Its enough, we have fought enough and enough blood has been shed, we need to stop that and we want to follow the guidelines of Jinnah," he said.
Karachi's newly elected mayor vowed to work alongside other political parties to solve the issues facing the metropolis. "I am not a mayor of MQM. I will work for Karachi, I am Karachi's mayor," he said.
During his speech, Akhtar requested Chief Minister Sindh Syed Murad Ali Shah to help and guide him. He also described himself as a political prisoner and said cases against him were unjustified. Akhtar was first detained and shifted to jail last month after a court rejected him extension in interim bail in terror case against former petroleum minister Dr Asim Hussain.
Interestingly his deputy, Saleem Vohra could be heard whispering to him when Akhtar spoke to the media persons that he should refrain from mentioning Hussain. Akhtar also requested the Chief Minister to provide him an office in the central jail to help him fulfill his duties as Mayor.