KARACHI: More than 200,000 mourners packed the streets of Karachi on Saturday for the burial of slain Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) politician Imran Farooq, amid heightened security in the bustling port city.
Farooq, 50, a founding member of Pakistan’s MQM was found with head injuries and stab wounds outside his London home on September 16. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Tearful mourners shouted “Farooq’s sacrifice will bring revolution, we want justice and accountability for blood of Farooq”, as the heavily guarded funeral procession snaked towards the Shuhada graveyard in the city’s Yasinabad area.
Special gates with explosive detectors were erected at the Jinnah Ground and a helicopter hovered overhead to monitor the procession and later funeral prayers.
Farooq’s wife, mother and father accompanied his body, which was in a coffin with an MQM party flag draped over it.
City police chief Fayyaz Laghari told AFP that more than 5,000 policemen had guarded the route of the procession, while 1,000 paramilitary rangers had been at the airport to receive the body after it was flown in from Britain.
The governor of Sindh province, Sindh Ishratul Ibaad, other MQM leaders and Interior Minister Rehman Malik of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) entered the aircraft to receive Farooq’s family.
“A couple of hundreds of thousands of people came to funeral despite fear, threat and security concern,” Faisal Sabzwari, a top MQM leader and provincial minister, told AFP.
Karachi went into virtual lockdown. “Public transport has ground to a halt owing to fears of possible violence,” president of the Karachi Transport Union, Irshad Bokhari, told AFP.
British police on Friday released an e-fit image of a man they want to speak to in connection with the murder of Farooq, who claimed asylum in Britain in 1999.
He had twice been elected an MP in Pakistan but went into hiding in 1992 when the government ordered a military crackdown against MQM activists in Karachi.
“Farooq was one of the senior leaders and people literally used to worship him for his leadership qualities,” Sabzwari told AFP.
“Terrorists are after us and we are trying hard with government and security forces to prevent violence,” he added.