LONDON: The British po­li­ce have announced that they are assessing the contents of Altaf Hussain’s speech in which he asked his workers if they were about to move on media houses in Karachi.

A statement released by Scotland Yard said: “We have received numerous calls from the public and are currently assessing the content of a speech given by an individual associated with Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to ascertain if any crimes have been committed under UK legislation. Where evidence of criminal activity is found we will consult with the Crown Prosecution Service.”

In the UK system, it is the police who gather evidence of possible crimes and the Crown Prosecution Service that decides whether or not to press charges thereby initiating a trial. The MQM leader is already being investigated for possible hate speech offences.

Scotland Yard said the existing enquiry would continue alongside a new one into Mr Hussain’s latest speech.

The statement marked a sharp change of direction by Scotland Yard which, in the immediate hours after the MQM leader’s speech, tried to play down its significance, saying it would not lead to any renewed investigations. At that point Scotland Yard responded to enquiries by saying: “It was a matter for Karachi law enforcement.”

The evolving police attitude suggests that, after many years of exhaustive investigations into various aspects of the MQM’s UK activities, the British authorities might now be willing to use the incitement issue to register a charge against Altaf Hussain.

“Both the money laundering investigation and the enquiry into the murder of Imran Farooq are in the doldrums,” a source close to the UK investigation said. “It might just suit everyone involved — both the Pakis­tanis and the British — to go for an incitement charge.”

The impression of an increased UK willingness to move against the MQM has been bolstered by a tweet issued by the British High Commission in Islamabad which said: “We stand with #Karachi at this difficult time. Strongly condemn the attack on media.”

In the past British Foreign Office officials have routinely and consistently refused to make any comment on the MQM, saying that any allegations against the party were a matter for the UK police to investigate.

It is difficult to understand the timing of Altaf Hussain’s speech which came just as his legal problems appeared to be going away. The money laundering investigation into the MQM seems stuck.

In April this year, the Metropolitan Police’s National Terrorist Financial Investigation Unit submitted a file to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) containing evidence of suspected MQM money-laundering activities. Officials at the CPS then considered whether the evidence was strong enough to press charges. Sources close to the CPS suggested they were considering dropping the case.

Meanwhile, the inquiry into the 2010 murder of MQM deputy leader Imran Farooq also seems bogged down. Long-running negotiations between the British and Pakistani governments are reportedly making little progress and have failed to overcome deep distrust between the two sides.

Pakistan is holding three suspects in connection with the murder of Imran Farooq, but the two governments are deadlocked over the question of how many of them should be extradited to the UK. While the British want to try just one of three suspects, Mohsin Ali Syed, Pakistan insists that it will either extradite all three — or none at all.

The London office of the MQM did not respond to a request by Dawn for a statement for this article.

Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2016

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