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Dr Imran Farooq went into hiding after the launch of the operation in Karachi in 1992 and resurfaced in London in 1999.
Dr Imran Farooq went into hiding after the launch of the operation in Karachi in 1992 and resurfaced in London in 1999.

LONDON: Shortly before 17:30 on Sept 16, 2010, Dr Imran Farooq was on his way home from work when he was murdered outside his home in Green Lane, Edgware, in north London. As the police subsequently reported, a post-mortem gave his cause of death as multiple stab wounds and blunt trauma to the head.

For Dr Farooq it was a violent, brutal end. For the MQM, it was the start of a process that six years later would leave the party divided, weakened and under assault from the Pakistani state. We can never know what would have happened had Imran Farooq not been murdered but MQM insiders admit that it was an incident that changed everything.

The British police investigation has been remarkably thorough. Detectives from the Counter Terrorism Command have spoken to 4,555 people, reviewed 7,697 documents, followed up 2,423 lines of inquiry and seized 4,325 exhibits.

At each stage the police faced obstacles. Early on, for example, details of visa applications had to be prised out of a reluctant British consulate in Karachi. Despite such difficulties the police eventually identified two suspects. One, Muhammad Kashif Khan Kamran subsequently died in Pakistani custody: the other, Mohsin Ali Syed is alive and the subject of a British extradition request.

Read: Imran Farooq murder: Met police says followed up 2,423 lines of inquiry

After the murder inquiry came other investigations. The police found not only piles of cash in the MQM’s buildings but also a receipt for weapons and explosives in Altaf Hussain’s home. The tax authorities started taking an interest and the MQM leader’s suggestion that his supporters play football with the heads of Karachi police officers led to a hate speech investigation.

And yet there were no charges. The MQM insists this is because it is innocent. Others have different theories. Increasing numbers of British members of parliament are asking why the cases are deadlocked. Even some of those under investigation have fully expected to be charged. Their own lawyers told them charges were inevitable.

UK protecting MQM?

It is difficult to escape the conclusion that had the MQM been a jihadi outfit there would have been charges long ago. Which raises the question: why is the British state protecting the MQM?

The answer is complicated because the reasons have changed over time. When Altaf Hussain first arrived in London the British saw him as an asset. There were regular contacts — several each week — between the MQM leadership, the Foreign Office and MI6. With a consistent haul of between 20 and 25 Members of the National Assembly, the MQM often held the balance of power in Pakistan and from time to time had federal ministers. When Britain needed things done in Pakistan it was in the happy position of having a powerful Pakistani politician beholden to British hospitality.

At various times an array of Pakistani politicians — driven, let us not forget, by self-interest rather than principle — demanded London make legal moves against the party. People who had been directly threatened in Altaf Hussain’s speeches paid visits to the British High Commissioner in Islamabad demanding action. All were brushed aside with the standard response: “He is a British citizen: it is none of your business”.

After Imran Farooq’s murder the mood of the British Foreign Office gradually began to change. Diplomats who in the past had said: “we have no evidence against the MQM” started to say: “of course, they are rather unsavoury but it’s a matter for the police”.

The British ship of state, it seemed, was adjusting itself to the possibility that there would indeed be charges.

But then a new factor come into play: it became known that two senior MQM officials had given statements to the British police that some of their funding came from India. Paradoxically, the revelation helped the MQM because it raised the possibility that evidence of India’s funding of terrorists could be heard in a British court. Indian officials made it clear that this would be unacceptable. Given the high priority Britain has given to improving its trade relationship with India, Delhi’s concerns were taken seriously.

Having initially been motivated by a desire to protect its own interests, London found itself trying to protect India’s. Which is why just a month ago there was every chance that all the cases would have been dropped.

The Aug 22 speech

And then Altaf Hussain made his August speech. The British police had become so accustomed to their investigations into the MQM leading nowhere that their initial response was to shrug their shoulders and say it was a matter for Karachi law enforcement authorities. But the speech and the divisions it created within the MQM had created a new political situation and the next day – when Scotland Yard rather belatedly realised this – the British police set up a new incitement investigation.

The incitement could satisfy everyone. The British could help overcome their PR problem in Pakistan by at last being able to say: “we have moved against the party, just as many Pakistanis demanded”. While Islamabad’s would prefer money laundering charges so that the Indian funding evidence is heard in a British court, it would welcome charges of any kind. For its part, India has no reason to stand in the way of a British trial as long as it steers clear of the funding issues.

So six years after Imran Farooq was murdered, the MQM has been bashed and battered but it has still not been knocked out. The pressure that Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan is applying on London is having an impact, especially in the Foreign Office, but there is still some way to go before London decisively changes it attitude. These cases have a tendency to drag on longer than anyone expects but it should be the case that by the seventh anniversary of Imran Farooq’s death we will finally know the legal fate of the MQM’s London leadership. And the history of the whole story suggests that the outcome will depend not so much on the law but on politics.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2016

Comments (24) Closed

blunt Sep 16, 2016 09:45am

See, this is written by whom. all would be clear. Karachiites have seen many such programs, table stories and "analyses".

Asad Ali Sep 16, 2016 10:05am

Yet another incisive account by O.B.J. ! but tragic part is that indecision on part of British Govt highlights the lop sided treatment it meted out to this whole affair was nothing but shoddy if one put it mildly.

optimistic Sep 16, 2016 10:07am

Very good article, informative and author "OWEN BENNETT-JONES" a seasoned journalist, has produced one of his best piece of investigative article for common reader. High regards to "OWEN BENNETT-JONES" for shedding the light on truth.

waqas Sep 16, 2016 10:28am

perfect insight of this case and the policies by both the govt. . Great article Sir OWEN BENNETT-JONES.

Khalid Sep 16, 2016 10:32am

Wow...and we always say & believe they have best and independent police and justice system.

SAB Sep 16, 2016 11:58am

Britain sadly still living in 1850s.

Abdulla Hussain Sep 16, 2016 12:11pm

Dr. Imran Farooq murder is a challenge to Scotland yard police. Hope they live up to their reputations

Kamal Pasha. Sep 16, 2016 12:21pm

Six years ago, in September 2010, Dr.Imran Farooq was murdered on the Street of London. Scotland Yard is taking time but there must be some reasons.

Ghani K Sep 16, 2016 12:22pm

7 years have gone bye, yet the family of Dr.Imran Farooq is waiting for the justice. Thank you Mr. Bennett-Jones for exposing the hypocracy of British government. Politics not the sanctity of the law prevails. All those lofty claims that London police and Scotland Yard are independent is just a cover up. In reality both departments tow the line of Britain's political interest.

SR Khan Sep 16, 2016 01:05pm

Scotland Yard's reputation has evaporated in the air.

Parvez Sep 16, 2016 01:07pm

All the things one started to think, comprehend and understand but never openly voiced.....has now been voiced and that too by a Britisher.....well done OBJ and Dawn News.

Khan Sep 16, 2016 01:07pm

Even a third world country police would have concluded case in six years

Sajjad Chitrali Sep 16, 2016 01:16pm

very well written. An eye opener about UK policies

fida USA Sep 16, 2016 02:30pm

Thank you Mr. Owen Bennett-Jones for your wonderful article "Situationer: Politics, not law, likely to decide murder probe" in Dawn, you have made my day. For years I have been describing Altaf Hussain as a present day Mir Jaffer for the British Government. Altaf Hussain is a Trophy for the British which they will use it for their maximum benefit as described by you in your article. Now for the Pakistan Government it will be appropriate to send home the High Commissioner of England and India for interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan.

Harmony-1© Sep 16, 2016 03:29pm

RAW's nefarious activities exposed again. Moral of the story: continue with policies of proxy wars and damaging each other no one would bat an eyelid!!!

Aisha Sep 16, 2016 06:20pm

Spot on analysis Mr. Jones! Your last line sums it perfectly well: "And the history of the whole story suggests that the outcome will depend not so much on the law but on politics".

N_Saq Sep 16, 2016 07:24pm

Well, everyone should know by now that politics is a dirty game. In politics there are no friends or enemies but just personal interests. Today's enemies are tomorrow's friend and vice versa, as shown in the triangle of Pak, British and India. Anyone thinking otherwise is nothing but delusional.

Asif A. Shah Sep 16, 2016 07:29pm

Albert Camus, the Algerian born French philosopher and writer once wrote" the word 'Justice' gives me strange fits of rage. I think, perhaps, he was writing about situations like this. Good article.

Adnan Mazher Khan Sep 16, 2016 08:31pm

A very well written article.

Worthless Wealth. Sep 16, 2016 10:21pm

"And the history of the whole story suggests that the outcome will depend not so much on the law but on politics".

Greatest Democracies on earth and their state of affairs in the Twenty First Century!

In National Parliament, or at United Nations, countries talk much about rule of law; of course suiting individual country's "so called" national interests, thus it is all about self interest and rule of law has no place.

M Jamal Sep 17, 2016 02:34am

UK government and Scotland must be watching the unlawful action being taken against MQM the representative of Urban areas of Sindh mostly the Urdu speaking people.They must have seen the illegal action of security people against the opposition leader of the Sindh Assembly and can easily assess the ground realities with reference to the cases referred to them.Hopefully justice will prevail.

Fayzee Sep 17, 2016 03:44pm

British Hypocrisy .. nothing else...

Pakistani Sep 17, 2016 06:39pm

Known facts, still unknown to justice!

Harvard Sep 17, 2016 10:28pm

@Abdulla Hussain .Scotland yard is still working on Dr Farooq murder case,and gathering evidences, and the day is not far when they disclose the main planner. Just wait .