-The curious cases of MQM in London
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. This is probably the most appropriate description of how 2016 ended for Altaf Hussain and the MQM. It brought greatest relief as the investigation in the money laundering case was stopped in the UK. On the other hand, his infamous speech in August literally sounded the death knell for the MQM as we know it. With this background what can the Interior Ministry of Pakistan do now to overcome the shortcomings of the past years and help bring successful prosecution in the UK against the MQM and its dear supreme leader in 2017?
The fact of the matter is that the reasons which led to the decision to eventually drop the money laundering case largely reside in Pakistan. It has been observed that the main defendants submitted large numbers of documents including but not limited to private undertakings from individuals from Pakistan stating that they gave money to the MQM and Altaf Hussain. Personal undertakings in the form of affidavits made in Pakistan were given by people connected to the MQM, industrialists and businessmen based in Karachi. These undertakings provided the cover for the amount of cash recovered from various properties connected to the MQM in London.
The veracity of these undertakings was never questioned. No efforts of note were made to find out who gave these undertakings, were they given under duress or voluntarily, and what were the sources of income of the signatories of these undertakings. This lack of interest by Pakistani authorities is alarming as all of this evidence originated from Pakistan. None of the many agencies under the command of the interior minister were able to provide high quality evidence to Scotland Yard to raise sufficient doubt in their minds on the overall genuineness of these undertakings. As a result, they were received as part of acceptable evidence by the UK investigators.
However, most recently, the money laundering case has taken a new turn. The UK authorities are confronted with multiple claimants and hence are not able to close the inquiry due to this dispute. If the Interior Ministry has the will to act, they have an opportunity now. They should intervene, submit new evidence based on professional investigations of all the personal undertakings and the circumstances in which they were made and collected in Pakistan. This evidence, alongside other proof, should then be submitted to Scotland Yard so it can initiate further investigations which could lead to successful prosecution in the money laundering case.
The Interior Ministry has two more opportunities to redeem its reputation. The first is the Charity Commission UK’s inquiry into the transfer of approximately £180,000 from MQM Pakistan to the ‘Society for Unwell and Needy’ UK (SUN Charity). The violation in this instance has been committed by MQM in Pakistan. Over the years they never disclosed this huge amount remitted abroad in their annual accounts submitted to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). On the other hand, SUN charity has always declared these as funds received from MQM Pakistan. The breach of electoral laws in this case has been committed by a registered political party in Pakistan. The leading UK newspaper ‘The Daily Sun’ published a story on SUN Charity and the MQM connection in its edition of March 21, 2016.
However, despite this story being widely cited in the UK and Pakistani media, no representations from the interior ministry or the ECP has been made to the Charity Commission, UK or to the media group to obtain the background information.
Authorities in Pakistan it seems have not conducted any legal action about these falsified annual accounts, how this huge amount was collected and eventually transferred to the UK by MQM Pakistan. And now MQM Pakistan on the surface appears to have parted ways with Altaf Hussain. They should demand their money back immediately. They can use this money to provide some relief to the poor people of Karachi rather than spending this amount in the Somerset area of the UK. If this amount is not returned to them on demand they can institute legal action in the UK to get the amount back. This is the least Farooq Sattar and party can do to show that they have changed their ways and the welfare of poor Karachites is now their top priority.
The other important case is the incitement to violence arising from the infamous speech of Altaf Hussain delivered from London on August 22, 2016. An inquiry is being conducted by the Counter Terrorism Command, UK. This is one other opportunity for the leadership of the interior ministry to prove that they are neither complicit nor incompetent in relation to the lack of success achieved by them in these cases. As reputable investigators, they now have to provide irrefutable evidence in the shape of unedited audio, video, photos, statement of victims and witnesses, the murdered person’s medical reports, circumstantial evidence and the confessional statements of individuals involved. All this evidence should unambiguously connect persons resorting to violence and murder directly to the content of the speech.
One aspect which cannot be ignored is that Altaf Hussain has engaged the world’s leading law firm to defend him in the money laundering case. It will be an important game-changing step for the interior ministry if they also engage a reputable law firm in the UK to assist them. This law firm should be tasked to review evidence collected by the Pakistani agencies. Such a firm should help the Pakistani authorities improve the standard of evidence collected to the extent that they fully meet the highest standards of proof required by the Crown Prosecution Service and British courts. The law firm should liaise at every step of the way with UK investigators. They should submit evidence officially to them on behalf of the Pakistani authorities. This critical measure would eliminate benefit of doubt as an excuse to dismiss these cases by the UK investigators. It will also greatly reduce the influence that the anti-Pakistan lobby can exert on these cases.
Needless to say, it is a legal and moral responsibility of the interior ministry to provide some closure to the family of Arif (son of Abdul Saeed), a Karachi’ite who was only 42 years old when attacked and murdered after the speech. The ministry is duty bound to act professionally and deliver evidence which make the cases prosecutable in the UK justice system. This will ensure that common citizens, the media personnel and media houses attacked as a result of Altaf Hussain’s incitement to violence get the justice they fairly deserve.
The announcement by the MQM London group to hold a public rally in Karachi has sent the local police and the rangers into overdrive. This culminated in the arrest of many ordinary workers. Similar efforts over the years by the LEAs to arrest workers have not yielded positive results for the city. It has in been of great help for Altaf Hussain and other MQM leaders. They play it as a victimization card and use it to support their separatist agenda among their followers. The interior ministry needs to change their strategy now by stopping giving ammunition to their anti-Pakistan agenda. Ordinary political workers should not be persecuted in any way and form. The ministry should focus on pursuing the successful prosecution of the leaders who plan and promote anarchy and have plundered the wealth of Karachi.
Tailpiece: The Dr Imran Farooq murder case is being investigated in the UK. An FIR has also been registered in Pakistan. It’s a unique situation that inquiries in two different jurisdictions have been registered for the same crime. At present there seems to be minimal possibility of a successful prosecution in the UK in this case.
The writer is founder of the online Facebook forum “Dialogue of the Civilisations” and is an independent senior analyst for South Asia and is based in London. He tweets @siddiquiaftab
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