ISLAMABAD, May 15: British High Commissioner Adam Thomson, faced with a barrage of questions on Wednesday about MQM leader Altaf Hussain’s recent remarks, remained non-committal about London pursuing charges against him (Altaf) for allegedly threatening to dismember Pakistan.
He was responding to questions from journalists if UK could extradite the MQM leader for his offensive public comments.
Mr Hussain, while reacting to rigging allegations in Karachi, had stated during an address to his supporters that if those against the MQM did not like its mandate then they should let Karachi secede. Later, when a section of the media interpreted it as a call to dismember Pakistan, the MQM leader clarified his statement, saying that his remarks were misinterpreted.
The British High Commissioner, while addressing a news conference, also responded to a number of questions about the possibility of British government taking action against the MQM leader for allegedly threatening his opponents in Karachi who had been protesting against alleged rigging in last week’s elections. The envoy said London Metropolitan Police had been flooded with complaints from both Pakistani and British citizens about those remarks. He noted that such allegations were usually taken very seriously by London police.
“As far as the United Kingdom is concerned, we have very strong laws which…prohibit the incitement to violence or incitement of hatred. And we take these laws seriously,” the high commissioner said.
He, however, said that it was up to the London police to investigate and decide whether or not to prosecute the accused.
“Unlike some countries in the world, the British police are fiercely independent of British government. And it is for the British police to investigate allegations of incitement to violence or incitement to hatred and to make a judgment on whether they can bring a successful prosecution,” he said.
Mr Thomson reminded that Mr Hussain had already retracted or denied the comments.
Speaking about elections, the high commissioner remarked that despite shortcomings there was nothing to doubt the poll results.
The United Kingdom, he said, endorsed the judgment made by the European Union’s Election Observation Mission that these elections were indeed a step forward for Pakistan.
Prospects of increased UK-Pakistan collaboration on shared challenges including countering violent extremism and boosting bilateral trade, Mr Thomson said, had improved following successful conduct of elections.