LONDON: For over a year the British government has failed to process a Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) request to extradite a suspect in the Imran Farooq murder case to the UK. The CPS originally asked for Mohsin Ali Syed to be extradited in early 2016 but senior officials in Islamabad say they are yet to receive a formal request for him to be handed over.
Under UK rules any extradition request must be processed through the Home Office and Foreign Office before being formally passed on to the Pakistani authorities. It is not clear whether the block is coming from the Home Office, the Foreign Office, or both.
Asked about the extradition request, a Home Office spokesperson said: “As a matter of long-standing policy and practice, the UK will neither confirm nor deny that an extradition request has been made or received until such time as an arrest has been made in relation to that request.”
The CPS took a similar line: “The CPS can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an extradition request.”
The Home Office statement overlooks the fact that Syed has, in fact, been arrested in Pakistan. He spent five years in ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence] detention during which time his alleged accomplice Muhammad Kashif Khan Kamran died. Syed was arrested in Chaman in 2015. Two other suspects — Khalid Shamim and Muazzam Ali — have also been arrested and are currently in Pakistani custody.
The Home Office refusal to comment appears to go against previous examples in which it had confirmed extradition requests in similar circumstances. In 2006, for example, the UK confirmed it had requested the extradition of Birmingham-born jihadi Rashid Rauf who at the time was in Pakistani custody. A Home Office official said there were in fact differences between the two cases but it was against policy to explain them.
The lack of clarity adds to suspicions of senior Pakistani military and civilian officials that some elements of the British state are trying to protect the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) because they see it as a diplomatic asset that gives the UK influence in Pakistan.
“The legal requirements for extradition are met,” said UK-based Barrister Ali Naseem Bajwa QC. “Accordingly, the failure to seek Mohsin Ali Syed’s extradition cannot be viewed in terms of a lack of evidence or a failure in the legal process. The failure can only be viewed as a lack of will and a failure in the political process.”
No extradition treaty
Britain and Pakistan do not have a formal extradition treaty. But last year, speaking specifically about the murder case of Imran Farooq, a senior leader of the MQM, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan insisted that would not be an obstacle to Pakistan cooperation: “We might not have an extradition treaty but the lack of a treaty will not stop me cooperating with the UK,” he said.
Earlier this year, Pakistan extradited a man charged with a double murder in the northern English city of Bradford. Mohammed Zubair had been charged with the murder of 27-year-old Imran Khan and 35-year-old Ahmed in Sayed Khyel. Zubair had been in Pakistani custody since November 2013 and the UK police said it was the first time in more than 10 years that anyone had been extradited from Pakistan to the UK.
The previous extradition of Pakistanis to the UK was in relation to the 2004 murder of a 15-year-old boy in the Scottish city of Glasgow. At that time cash-and-carry tycoon and British MP Mohamed Sarwar ran a campaign to get suspects, who had fled to Pakistan, extradited the UK. Three men eventually received sentences ranging from five to 17 years.
The Home Office objected to Mr Sarwar’s efforts on the grounds that one off extradition arrangements undermined its attempts to negotiate a full-blown extradition treaty with Pakistan. Mr Sarwar later said that the British High Commission in Pakistan also opposed his efforts arguing that pressuring Pakistan to extradite someone might upset diplomatic relations.
While the UK police, guided by the Crown Prosecution Service, want Syed’s extradition on his own, Pakistan would prefer that he face trial in the UK alongside Khalid Shamin and Muazzam Ali. But since Pakistan has not even received a formal request for Syed’s extradition, it is far from clear that any of the three men will face trial in the UK.
Ever since Farooq’s murder in 2010 the MQM has insisted the case had nothing to do with the party. To this day, the MQM’s website carries a British police appeal for information about the murder. The site describes Farooq as a “martyr of revolution and loyalty”.
Whilst the Farooq murder inquiry seems stalled, the British inquiry into Altaf Hussain’s Aug 22 speech is still ongoing. It is believed that the question of whether that speech incited violence might be put together with other investigations into possible hate speech offences.
Pakistan is trying to increase pressure on the UK to be more cooperative in cases concerning the MQM.
Chaudhry Nisar said last week that he was seeking legal assistance in relation to the money laundering and hate speech cases. It is not clear, however, whether starting legal proceedings in Pakistan increases pressure on the UK or in fact lets it off the hook as British officials can argue that if cases are ongoing in Pakistan there is no need for the UK to proceed with parallel proceedings in the UK.
Published in Dawn, March 20th, 2017