KARACHI: Based on the statement of an unnamed ‘authoritative Pakistani source’, a BBC report said on Wednesday that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement had been receiving funds from the Indian government — a charge categorically rejected by the MQM.
The website of the BBC News carried the news report — Pakistan’s MQM ‘received Indian funding’ — by freelance British journalist and one of the hosts of the BBC’s Newshour programme, Owen Bennett-Jones, in which he said “the BBC learnt from an authoritative Pakistani source” that “British authorities held formal recorded interviews with senior MQM officials who told them the party was receiving Indian funding”.
According to the BBC report, “the Indian authorities described the claims as ‘completely baseless’. The MQM said it was not going to comment”.
Minutes after the BBC report was posted online, Pakistani news channels flashed its contents as breaking news. At Twitter, hashtags were made by both the opponents and loyalists of the MQM to praise and reject Mr Bennet-Jones’s report. The hashtag — #BBCprovesMQMisRAW — became number one Pakistan trend with over 27,000 tweets by 10.45pm. Another hashtag, ostensibly created by MQM loyalists, — #ChroniclesOfOBJ — was also trending with over 10,000 tweets.
The BBC report said it was told that the UK authorities investigating the MQM for alleged money laundering held formal recorded interviews with senior MQM officials who told them the party was receiving Indian funding.
The report said: “A Pakistani official has told the BBC that India has trained hundreds of MQM militants in explosives, weapons and sabotage over the last 10 years in camps in north and northeast India. Before 2005-2006, the training was given to a small number of mid-ranking members of the MQM. More recently greater numbers of more junior party members have been trained.”
According to the report, when asked about the claims of Indian funding and training of the MQM, the Indian High Commission in London said: “Shortcomings of governance cannot be rationalised by blaming neighbours.”
The report said the UK authorities had started investigating the MQM in 2010 when its senior leader Dr Imran Farooq was stabbed to death in London. In the course of inquiries, police found around £500,000 in MQM’s London offices and in the home of MQM chief Altaf Hussain. That prompted a second investigation into possible money laundering.
Quoting Pakistani media reports that “the BBC believes to be credible”, Mr Bennett-Jones wrote that “in the course of the inquiries, the UK authorities found a list itemising weapons, including mortars, grenades and bomb-making equipment in an MQM property” and the list included prices for the weapons.
The report said: “As the UK police investigations have progressed, the British judiciary has been taking an increasingly tough line on the MQM. Back in 2011, a British judge adjudicating an asylum appeal case found that ‘the MQM has killed over 200 police officers who have stood up against them in Karachi’.”
“Last year another British judge hearing another such case found: ‘There is overwhelming objective evidence that the MQM for decades had been using violence’.”
Meanwhile, in a statement issued here on Wednesday, the MQM coordination committee said: “We categorically reject all the allegations levelled in this report. We believe that this report is aimed at tarnishing the image of the MQM in Pakistan and throughout the world.
“The MQM was accused of the Jinnahpur conspiracy in the past and a host of other allegations to blemish its image. It was alleged that Nato weapons were recovered from an MQM office but it was denied by the US State Department and Nato. In the same manner, India has also rejected having any connection with the MQM but some anti-MQM elements are bent on carrying out media trial of the MQM by repeating the allegation again and again.
“It is pertinent to note that BBC is a British institution and the allegations made in the report apparently relate to an investigation that is undergoing in Britain. Interestingly, all the allegations in the report are made on the strength of a Pakistani source that should be sufficient to explain the reality of these claims.”
The MQM said it believed that the people of Pakistan would reject this “false and baseless report”.
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2015