Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) has asked for Pakistan’s help to bring charges against MQM-London leader Altaf Hussain, according to documents obtained by Dawn.
The British authorities are focusing on violence associated with speeches given by Mr Hussain on March 11, 2015 and Aug 22, 2016.
The charges being considered by the British range from encouraging violent disorder, inciting others to commit terrorism outside England and Wales to encouragement of terrorism. Other charges could include intentionally encouraging or assisting an offence. The various offences fall under the Terrorism Act, the Serious Crime Act and the Public Order Act.
Asked about the British investigation into Mr Hussain’s speeches, the MQM declined to comment.
A British document sent to Pakistan on Aug 8 this year recounts how, after the Aug 22, 2016 speech, some of Mr Hussain’s supporters went on the rampage in Karachi. “Towards the end of the speech, he seemed to be encouraging the audience to go and attack local media stations,” the document says.
According to the CPS, the protesters attacked the ARY News office. “As a result of the violence, one person was killed and several others were injured.” The document names the deceased as Arif Saeed.
In the Aug 22 speech, Mr Hussain said: “Pakistan is headache for the entire world. Pakistan is the epicentre of terrorism for the entire world. Who says long live Pakistan…it’s down with Pakistan.”
Later in the speech when he asked — “So you are moving to ARY and Samaa [offices] from here…right?” — he received from the crowd a unanimous and loud reply in the affirmative. “So you go to Samaa and ARY today and then refresh [yourself] tomorrow for the Rangers place. And tomorrow we would lock down the Sindh government building which is called Sindh Secretariat.”
The CPS document also cites a less well-known speech made on March 11, 2015 following the Rangers’ raid on Nine Zero. After that raid, the document says, Mr Hussain gave a live interview on Geo TV. Reports about the interview indicate that Mr Hussain denounced the raid, and said the death of an MQM activist, Waqas Shah, during the raid deeply upset him. He also accused the Rangers of planting the ammunition they seized at Nine Zero
The most likely explanation of the CPS’s interest in the otherwise largely forgotten March 11 speech is that nine days later, on March 20, 2015 the Pakistani authorities lodged a complaint to the UK police requesting that Mr Hussain be investigated for his comments on March 11.
A potentially controversial aspect of the request concerns the death of Waqas Shah during the Nine Zero raid. The British document observes that: “The Rangers have denied that he was killed by them,” and goes on to request: “a statement and any further details from any pathologist regarding the post mortem or cause of death in relation to Mr Waqas Shah.” The MQM has claimed that, in fact, Waqas Shah was killed by the Rangers.
Earlier this month an MQM worker, Syed Asif Ali, was sentenced to death for the murder of Waqas Shah.
The CPS document appears confused as to the sequence of events on March 11. At one point it states that Mr Waqas Shah was killed during the raid on Nine Zero and before Mr Hussain gave his Geo TV interview. But later the document says the death of Mr Waqas Shah followed Mr Hussain’s speech. The distinction would seem crucial to any attempt to prove incitement.
Asked how Mr Hussain could have incited a death that occurred before he spoke, the CPS said that due to staff leave they needed more time before making a statement.
The current enquiry into the speeches — called ‘Operation Demerit’ — was established by the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command in February this year and brought together two separate units that were looking into possible hate crime offences. Initially Operation Demerit considered six of Mr Hussain’s speeches but the CPS document indicates that it is now focusing on just two of them.
Asked about the progress of Operation Demerit, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Police confirmed to Dawn that an International Letter of Request has been sent to Pakistan and said that it is not yet clear how long it will take to decide whether or not to lay charges: “a decision will be made in due course: no time limit has been set.”
The CPS is requesting a significant amount of Pakistani assistance. London is asking Islamabad to provide copies of all the investigation files in relation to both speeches. It is hoping to receive the Sindh Police files, details of the Sindh Counter Terrorism Division investigation files, the FIA files and the Sindh Rangers files. The CPS is also hoping to obtain copies of the speeches and any video of the aftermath that “may help identify criminal offences committed by Mr Hussain.”
The British government also wants details of any suspects arrested in relation to incidents following the two speeches and anything else Pakistan would consider useful to progress the cases in relation to possible incitement.
The British document makes it clear that any material provided by Pakistan could be used in criminal proceedings in the UK. And it adds that in the future Pakistan could expect to experience similar co-operation from the British government. “I confirm that the assistance required above may be obtained under current English law if in a like case a request for such assistance were made to the authorities in England and Wales,” the document says.
Pakistan has previously made attempts to link the MQM cases to the presence of Baloch separatists in London.
The current investigation into Mr Hussain’s speeches is the only active British police enquiry into MQM-London and its leader.
A source close to the investigation has said that some British officials remain determined that the politics surrounding the various cases should not be allowed to obstruct justice.
Over the last 12 months the British authorities have dropped two large-scale and long-running investigations into MQM-related matters. The first, into possible money laundering offences, had involved the UK police gathering evidence of significant flows of money coming into MQM-London, some of it from Indian sources. The second into the 2010 murder of MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq identified two individuals in Pakistan who were suspected of having travelled to London to carry out the murder.
Both investigations collapsed amidst private expressions of mutual distrust and frustration by the British and Pakistani authorities. The MQM has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to both cases and says the decision to close down the investigations was a vindication of its longstanding protestations of innocence.