Karachi

Mayor of Karachi resumes office after four months of captivity

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KARACHI: Following a four-month legal struggle and uncertainty, Waseem Akhtar resumes his office as Karachi Mayor on Thursday, a day after he was released from prison when a court granted him bail in the last of 39 cases against him.

Akhtar took control of Karachi, Pakistan’s economic powerhouse, effectively for the first time. However, the dozens of outstanding cases against him remain.

Speaking to media in his office, Akhtar said the city was marred by problems and challenges and needs development packages at the earliest to overcome those.

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He said it was now the responsibility of Chief Minister Sindh to provide him funds and the required powers to work for the betterment of Karachi.

The mayor also complained and alleged that he did not get adequate security which he deserved on his position.

Akhtar, a member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) which largely controls the metropolis of some 20 million people, was greeted by crowds of jubilant party supporters on his release.

He was arrested in July shortly after his nomination as mayor. Later the MQM contested the elections while being in prison and even won the position. Akhtar was out of the prison for a day only to take oath as Karachi Mayor.

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Eight of the cases centre on Akhtar’s alleged role in orchestrating political violence that paralysed Karachi on May 12, 2007, claiming dozens of lives at the height of a crisis involving the then president Pervez Musharraf and the Supreme Court Chief Justice. The MQM was a Musharraf ally at the time.

Akhtar’s arrest was part of a military-driven crackdown in Karachi. The MQM complains it is being unfairly targeted, but the Rangers said the campaign was directed only against criminals and terrorists.

Karachi has seen frequent ethnic, political and sectarian violence, and while crime has dropped since the crackdown began in 2013, targeted attacks are still common.

Akhtar’s MQM has dominated politics in the city for decades but has come under increasing pressure since the crackdown, which has seen the party split into several factions.

The MQM founder now rules one of those factions, while Akhtar has shown allegiance to a new faction led by party leader Dr Farooq Sattar that has dubbed itself the MQM-Pakistan, in a bid to distance itself from its the party’s overseas leaders.

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