THE MQM’s activities, particularly that of the party’s chief, have been in the news recently after a British TV programme revealed various details that have emerged in the course of MQM leader Imran Farooq’s 2010 murder investigation. As reported in the BBC Two’s Newsnight programme, Altaf Hussain is being investigated after a large amount of money — around £400,000 in cash — was discovered in raids conducted by the London Metropolitan Police from two properties connected to him. While it is normal for parties to raise funds from supporters for political activities both in Pakistan and abroad, the discovery of such a large amount of cash in a foreign country is bound to raise eyebrows. Some experts are of the view that this may lead to money laundering charges, though no one has been formally charged yet and the MQM has denied all accusations of wrongdoing. However the broadcast has opened up a Pandora’s Box. Many of the points raised in the programme were already being discussed in the public domain, though perhaps in hushed tones, while other revelations were new.
It is quite possible that the funds in question were personal donations or money meant for party use. For most Pakistanis it is understandable, and perhaps even acceptable, to have such a large amount of cash without declaring it for tax purposes. But the British authorities, who follow a very strict tax regime, may not understand this practice. Therefore, the MQM and its leadership need to move very carefully in this regard. Instead of describing the investigation as a conspiracy or criticising media reports as “character assassination” of its leader, the MQM needs to cooperate with and satisfy the London police because what is important here is for the party to clear its name in the eyes of the British law enforcement authorities, not just its supporters in Pakistan. Full cooperation must also be extended in the Imran Farooq case as the MQM leadership has also said it wants the killers to be brought to justice.