London: Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) leader, Imran Farooq, was stabbed to death near his home in London, the incident sparking violence in Pakistan`s port city Karachi, a MQM stronghold.
Two vehicles were set on fire on Karachi`s streets and life came to a halt in most parts as news of the killing spread.
Police said Farooq was repeatedly stabbed in the head and neck in Edgware in north London on Thursday night while on his way to attend the birthday celebrations of party chief, Altaf Hussain, who too lives in London.
"Officers found a single Asian man aged 50 with multiple stab wounds and head injuries," said a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police. "Paramedics attended the man but he was pronounced dead at the scene."
The MQM chief`s birthday celebrations were to be held at the party headquarters on London`s Edgware Road. The event was called off when party members learnt about the tragedy.
"I have lost a personal friend and trustworthy colleague," a distraught Hussain said about MQM convener.
Investigators told the Daily Telegraph that it was too early to say if the killing was politically motivated.
Farooq had claimed asylum in Britain after being on the run for seven years.
He had moved to London in 1992 after a crackdown by the Pakistani military against the MQM in Karachi. He faced a slew of charges including murder and torture.
In no time, tensions gripped Karachi. Several eateries that usually remain open through the night closed down hurriedly.
Petrol pumps too shut down. Two vehicles were burnt by a mob while traffic went off the roads in a few areas.
MQM party leaders gathered at the residence of Farooq`s parents to offer their condolences.
MQM deputy convener, Farooq Sattar, termed it a great loss for the party and announced a 10-day mourning.
"All party affairs will be suspended during this period while the birthday celebrations of Altaf Hussain have been cancelled," Sattar said in Karachi.
There were moving scenes outside Farooq`s parents` house and the MQM headquarters. The MQM claims to represent the Urdu-speaking settlers who migrated to Pakistan following India`s 1947 partition.
MQM considers Karachi and other urban areas in Sindh province its stronghold. MQM activists are routinely involved in ethnic and sectarian clashes.
This was the second high-profile MQM leader to be killed since August. The earlier victim was provincial legislator, Raza Haider, who was shot dead in Karachi.