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LONDON: Britain’s Home Secretary Amber Rudd has told the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee that she is providing support to state prosecutors as they consider whether or not to bring hate speech charges against the London-based Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain.

After being questioned by Bradford MP Naz Shah, the home secretary said: “I get lobbied quite a lot if I go to Pakistan or to other countries about this. I am making sure that the Crown Prosecution Service and the Metropolitan Police have the support they need in order to make sure that they can, where appropriate, bring prosecutions.”

Speaking after the committee session, Naz Shah said: “It’s important to be asking these questions.”

About the alleged hate speech, she said: “We cannot allow this to happen and I will continue to raise the issue.”

The charges being considered by the British authorities range from encouraging violent disorder, inciting others to commit terrorism outside England and Wales to encouragement of terrorism.

Asked about Ms Shah’s question and the home secretary’s remarks, the MQM declined to comment.

In August, Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) asked for Pakistan’s help to bring charges against Altaf Hussain in relation to speeches he gave on March 11, 2015 and Aug 22, 2016. In the Aug speech, Mr Hussain said: “So you are moving to ARY and Samaa from here...right?”

According to the CPS, protesters then attacked the ARY News office which led to one man’s death.

The British inquiry into the MQM leader’s speeches is called ‘Operation Demerit’. It is running alongside a separate money laundering investigation. Having closed the inquiry into money laundering last year it seems Scotland Yard may have reopened it.

Last week, a London-based international lawyer, Toby Cadman, who is working with the former MQM ally Sarfraz Merchant, handed the UK police fresh documents said to be relating to the money laundering case.

Mr Cadman told reporters that he had been assured by the police that they were still working on the issue.

Mr Merchant was himself suspect of involvement in MQM money laundering before the case against him was dropped in 2016.

While the hate speech and money laundering investigations are still active, the British authorities have dropped their inquiry into the 2010 murder of MQM leader Imran Farooq.

The MQM has consistently denied any wrongdoing in relation to all the cases and says the decision to close down the murder investigation was a vindication of insistence on its innocence.

Senior military officials in Pakistan say they have no faith in the British commitment to any of the investigations. They say the UK is protecting Altaf Hussain because they consider him an asset for the UK.

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2017