The imprisoned politician who is almost certain to be the next mayor of Pakistan’s largest and richest city of Karachi will run the teeming metropolis via “video link” from his prison cell, his lawyer said on Wednesday.
Waseem Akhtar, who was arrested last month on suspicion of aiding alleged militants, arrived in an armored police vehicle at the British-age Karachi Metropolitan Corporation building to cast his vote in the closing round of elections that’s his party in an unassailable lead.
Akhtar is a member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which swept local elections in December, but he could barely take office due to legal challenges that prevented members of the city council from casting their vote. The council is controlled by mQM.
“He will open an office in jail and via video link he will conduct council sessions,” Mahfooz Yar Khan, Akhtar’s lawyer, told reporters outside the council building as his client voted inside. “He can run Karachi via video link for five years.”
The election of an imprisoned politician as mayor is symbolic of the ongoing power struggle for control of Karachi, a port city which is the stock exchange, central bank, home to 20 million people, along with militants and gangsters.
Akhtar’s laic MQM has controlled politics and commerce in the city for decades, but a paramilitary crack down on crime since 2013 has undermined its power base.
On Tuesday, police lodged a case of treason against MQM’s firebrand London-based leader, Altaf Hussain, and sealed the headquarters of the party had incited supporters to attack the office of a TV channel in battles that left one dead.
How Akhtar will manage to run the city is far from clear, with the courts not expected to release him before he probably takes oath on Aug. 30.
MQM officials have said they’ll request authorities to provide him with a nicely-furnished office. He will be escorted by authorities to any assemblies he’s permitted to attend externally.
Security forces have arrested scores of MQM members in the last year and accuse them of murder, torture and racketeering in a bid to keep their grip on the town. MQM denies any link to offense and accuses paramilitary forces of a series of extra-judicial killings of its members.
Akhtar was arrested on July 19 on suspicion of sheltering and providing clinical treatment to criminals and alleged militants. He faces earlier charges of inciting riots.