Altaf Hussain, founder and self-exiled leader of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) formerly known as the Mohajir Qaumi Movement, was born on September 17, 1953 in Karachi. He has seven brothers and four sisters.
His parents Nazir Hussain and mother Khurshid Begum both belonged to religious families of Agra, the city in Utter Pradesh state of India known for wonderful Taj Mahal. The father and grandfather, Mufti Muhammad Ramzan, of Altaf Hussain were Muftis of the city. His mother and maternal grandfather Haji Hafiz Rahim Bukhsh were also religious persons belonging to a known family of the city.
After the creation of Pakistan on August 14, 1947, parents of Altaf Hussain migrated to Pakistan with whole family and settled to a middle class locality of Karachi known as Ibn-e-Sena Lane. Altaf Hussain’s father died on March 13, 1967 while his mother passed away on December 5, 1985.
Altaf Hussain’s elder brother Nasir Hussain was a government employee so when the government allotted him a quarter at Jahangir Road, they shifted to Jahangir Road quarters. The founder of MQM and his family shifted to house in Block 8 of Azizabad neighbourhood in Federal B Area. The same house later became the MQM head office, also known as Nine-Zero (90), in Karachi.
He graduated from the Islamia Science College in Karachi and later studied at the University of Karachi in Department of Pharmacy but had to leave his higher education because of politics.
In 1970s, according to the MQM, Altaf Hussain joined the Pakistan Army under the compulsory National Cadet Service Scheme introduced by General Yahya Khan. His services were assigned to 57 Balochistan Regiment as soldier number 2642671. When his regiment was posted in Karachi from Hyderabad after completion of training, it was sent to erstwhile East Pakistan via ships.
According to the MQM version of the story, in interview for final selection, officers asked wherefrom his parents and when he said from India, the selection officer said he was Indian or Mohajir not Pakistani. He said he was Pakistani because was born in the country but the officer rejected him.
His political career started when he was a student at the University of Karachi and founded All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation (APMSO) on June 11, 1978. APMSO started gaining support of Urdu-speaking students (Mohajirs) and was able to win 92 seats in college elections in 1980. However, APMSO faced a strong opposition from Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba, student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami.
APMSO was restructured as Mohajir Qaumi Movement on March 18, 1984. On August 8, 1986, Altaf Hussain led first public convention of the party at Nishtar Park in Karachi.
Between 1990 and 1992, MQM was alleged to have been involved in widespread terrorist activities, including murder of dissidents, arson, torture and rape. Extortion had become so widespread within MQM circles that the army had to intervene.
Altaf Hussain credits himself as the first in Pakistan who introduced a new trend in the political culture by giving a non-feudal based political philosophy and forming a political party, which is the commonly associated as a representative of uneducated minorities. The party has been a coalition partner in governments of different parties.
MQM claims to be a political party of lower middle class population of Pakistan and boasts of sending poor and lower middle people to the Parliament for the first time in history of the country. It also claims to the third largest political party of the country and the second largest of the Sindh province.
On December 21, 1991 Altaf Hussain was attacked but he escaped. He fled Pakistan for Saudi Arabia on January 1, 1992 and after one month moved to London, United Kingdom. In 1992-93, Altaf Hussain’s brothers and nephews were killed and after a military operation was launched in Karachi on June 19, 1992, he sought political asylum in the United Kingdom because he faces criminal charges in Pakistan. Later he got citizenship of the UK and is still staying there.