Surrounded by quiet streets lined with apple trees, Green Court in Edgware was the very picture of suburban anonymity, the kind of place where neighbourliness typically means little more intrusive than the odd polite "hello".
Late on Thursday afternoon, though, an area that could have been the setting for a sitcom like Terry and June became the centre of a rather grittier drama, as Mr Farooq was stabbed to death outside his home. Alerted by shouts and screams, neighbours saw him in a violent struggle with another man, who beat the 50-year-old Pakistani around the head and then knifed him repeatedly.
It was a brutal end for a man who - to his neighbours at least - seemed a respectable figure, working at a nearby pharmacy and living with his wife, Shumaila, and their two young sons Alishan, 5, and Wajdan, 3.
"None of us even knew there was a politician living here," said Bhiru Malde, 60, a neighbour, as he stood near the police cordon yesterday, from where boiler-suited forensic experts from Scotland Yard could be seen conducting finger-tip searches of nearby gardens. "This is a very quiet area, but when I came back at 6pm there were police everywhere."
The murder was, however, all too much in keeping with the other job Mr Farooq held down - as a leading figure in the London branch of Pakistan's Muttahida Quami Movement, a party with a notorious reputation even in a country steeped in political violence.
The MQM's headquarters in the capital lies just down the road on Edgware High Street, a drab, unassuming office block typical of the hundreds of bureaus maintained by foreign political parties with followings in London's myriad diaspora communities. Yet in the case of the MQM, the "international secretariat", which stands opposite a Lidl supermarket and a Turkish grocer, is no mere diplomatic outpost.
Instead, it is the very nerve centre from which the party directs its affairs in Pakistan, and in particular its stronghold in Karachi, the country's largest city, which it effectively runs. Holding court in the office nearly every day is Mr Farooq's boss and MQM's leader, Altaf Hussain, a stocky, moustachioed firebrand who effectively acts as a one-man government in exile, barking orders to minions in Karachi via mobile phone and addressing huge street rallies via televised links ups to the Edgware Road. Such is his iron grip on his party 5,000 miles away that all key meetings are held on Greenwich Meantime, keeping his Karachi-based staff up late into the night.
The kind of City hall politics that the MQM presides over in Karachi, though, make Chicago in the 1930s seem like a model of good governance.
Thousands have died in political violence there over the last three decades, as the MQM has slugged it out with other factions for control of a metropolis of 18 million that includes the country's main port and generates 50 per cent of Pakistan's tax revenues.
Officials blamed the MQM for much of the violence, and in the early 1990s, both Mr Hussain and Dr Farooq found themselves on the run on charges of murder and kidnapping, following claims that the party was running networks of torture chambers around its strongholds. By the late 1990s, though, both men had managed to claim asylum in Britain, after telling the authorities that the charges against them were politically motivated.
It is in this murky world that Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism command unit is now looking for clues to Dr Farooq's murderer. While they have not ruled out the possibility that it was just a mugging gone wrong, the absence of any sign of robbery, and the eyewitness reports that his killer was a fellow Asian, indicate that it was politically motivated.
One theory is that enemies within his own party may have been responsible, another is that it was the work of the Pakistani Taliban, of which the MQM, as a secular party, is a prominent critic. Mr Hussain also recently angered the ruling Pakistan People's Party of President Asif Ali Zardari, when, in yet another televised rant from London, he said the MQM was ready to lead a "French Revolution" to mop up the chaos left by the recent devastating floods.
Detectives have so far been wary of speculating on a motive, however, aware that the outcome of the case may be politically explosive.
His killing has already sparked riots in Karachi, a powder-keg city at the best of times, with his supporters torching cars and firing guns in the air: Pakistani security officials fear that if, or when, the finger of blame is pointed at one faction or another, Karachi may erupt into all-out bloodshed.
MQM supporters in London told The Sunday Telegraph that they were "shocked" at the murder, describing Dr Farooq as a "poet and philosopher" rather than a political gangster. "We are not aware of any threat against him," said Mohammad Raza Haroon, a senior party official. "He was such a nice, gentle friendly person, and it is a huge loss. Senior members of the party have lived in Britain for many years and felt safe, even though many have been killed in Pakistan."
Others however paint a rather different picture of both Dr Farooq and the movement he helped lead. The MQM has been a streetfighting force in the country's politics ever since its formation in 1984, when Mr Hussain, who had previously worked as a taxi driver in Chicago, convened a party to represent the Muhajirs, Urdu-speaking Muslims who fled India after partition in 1947 and who had complained of ethnic discrimination from other Pakistanis.
Supporters say it has tried to shed its violent image of the 1990s, when it waged open warfare with its Pashtu-speaking rivals of the Awami National Party, and today it is proud of its record in improving life in the city's sprawling slums, but it still works through protection rackets and thuggery, according to some.
"I hate the way they operate," said one Karachi resident. "This is not the way of Islam but they say that it is the only way to get things done. They have a very slick operation."
More serious allegations, though, were made in the early 1990s when the Pakistani army launched a crackdown against escalating violence in the region.
Military officials claimed they uncovered 23 torture chambers in MQM-run offices, schools and hospitals in Karachi, where electric drills would be used on political prisoners.
Gory photographs of blood splashed walls, chains hanging from ceilings and electrical torture implements were reproduced in Pakistani national newspapers, which reported that some of the chambers were allegedly kept as rape cells.
Dr Farooq and Mr Hussain – along with 150 party workers - were named in cases brought before a special anti-terrorist court in Karachi, accusing them of murder, kidnapping, robbery and violence against political opponents.
One victim, a member of the Pakistan People's Party formerly run by the late Benazir Bhutto, told Amnesty International that he was abducted by four MQM members who then blindfolded him and beat him with leather whips and wooden sticks. "They hit me on the face and the chest, for many hours," he said.
"Before they released me on the fifth day they drilled a hole in my leg, with an electric drill. I fainted."
True, exaggeration and smears have always been part and parcel of Pakistani politics, but some believe the charges had a degree of substance. "The leadership always said they didn't use violence – or at least only in self-defence – but it seems impossible that someone like Farooq didn't know that his party had set up torture chambers," said a political commentator, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
How British asylum officials concluded that such serious allegations were pure fabrication remains unclear.
According to one well placed Pakistani source, concerns that the two would be killed or tortured if returned to Pakistan may have over-ridden doubts about whether it was appropriate for them to remain in Britain.
Several of Mr Hussain's relatives had also been murdered in the 1990s, lending credence to his claims of political persecution.
However, last week's murder was not the first time that Mr Hussain's actitivies in London have come under scrutiny. In 2007, he was accused of stirring up trouble when followers of the MQM allegedly opened fire on anti-government protesters, sparking clashes in which more than 40 people were killed.
British government officials said that because Mr Hussain had committed no crime on British soil, there was no reason to revoke his citizenship, a stance that drew bitter criticism at the time from Imran Khan, the former cricketer who now runs his own political party in Pakistan.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph last week, he said he had contacted both Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when they were prime ministers to accuse them of "double standards" by waging war on the Taliban and al Qaeda while sheltering MQM politicians accused of abuses.
"I tried to convince the British police that they had to probe this," he said. "We cannot have someone living there as head of the party when we know the party is involved in violence. Scotland Yard already had a file. The only way they are able to control Karachi is by staying in London, far from the danger."
Now, with blood being spilt in London rather than Pakistan, what was originally a relatively small Scotland Yard file on the party is likely to become much bigger. In coming days, detectives are expected to interview senior party officials in what is likely to be a complex, politically-charged and hugely costly investigation, the outcome of which could also affect British-Pakistani relations. "They have been asking us to fight the war on terror but at the same time giving these people passports," said Mr Khan. "But as long as Britain was safe, it didn't seem to matter."
Additional reporting by Nick Meo in Edgware
By Colin Freeman, Chief Foreign Correspondent, and Rob Crilly in Karachi
Source: The Telegraph, UK