Waseem Akhtar was sworn in today as the new mayor of Karachi, Pakistan's largest city. But he didn't get to settle into his brand-new office after the swearing-in ceremony.
Instead, he was rushed back to jail in an armored police vehicle.
Akhtar, a former member of parliament and member of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party in Pakistan, has been charged with arranging medical care for suspected terrorists and stoking violence and riots in 2007.
He hasn’t been found guilty of any crime, but has been under arrest since last month.
Akhtar was brought to Karachi's central park under tight security. He accepted his new position as mayor of the city, insisting that the accusations against him are fake.
He also promised to work with his political rivals.
“He made conciliatory noises,” says Beena Sarwar, a journalist and documentary filmmaker from Karachi who now lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
“He said he would work with their main political rivals in Karachi — our former cricket captain Imran Khan, Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf [but] that has not been MQM’s earlier modus operandi. They’ve been pretty much a law onto themselves,” Sarwar explains.
Lawyers in Karachi told Sarwar they expect Akhtar to be granted bail.
“He cannot be running the affairs of the city from behind the bars,” she says.
One of Pakistan's major news sites, Dawn, reported that it was not clear whether Akhtar would be able to attend his own swearing-in ceremony even hours before the event.
But Akhtar is not wasting any time. He has requested an office be setup in his cell so he can run city affairs from there.
He is reportedly going to start work from his jail cell and run the metropolis remotely.