Government’s silence

Published January 24, 2022

A MAJOR trial is underway in London during which Pakistan has repeatedly been mentioned as the place where payment was allegedly sent to a hitman for hire. The case revolves around the defendant, a British Pakistani man Gohir Khan, whom the Crown Prosecution Service alleges was hired by an individual in Pakistan to murder exiled Pakistani blogger Ahmed Waqass Goraya, who is now based in Rotterdam (the Netherlands).

Regardless of the outcome, the case has significant implications, not just for the UK but also Pakistan. On multiple occasions, the prosecution has alleged that a middleman based in Pakistan approached the defendant with a ‘job’ to kill Mr Goraya. It has also been alleged that the middleman provided £5,000 which was paid into a Pakistani bank account, a photograph of the target as well as his home address in Rotterdam. A further £80,000 was allegedly promised if the ‘job’ was completed. Thus far, none of the allegations or evidence has been contested by the defendant. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges of conspiracy to murder and maintains he had no intention to kill anyone but just to earn cash.

The case has raised serious questions about a possible transnational murder plot, which on the surface appears to have been initiated by elements/individuals in Pakistan. Despite these implications, there is a deafening silence in Pakistan. The authorities have not uttered a word about the disclosures being made in the UK court, which include the name of the middleman as well as a bank account and receipt of the money transfer.

It is unclear whether Islamabad is in touch with London about this individual, or if efforts are underway to determine the identity of this middleman and his boss. The UK and Pakistan have signed mutual legal assistance documents, which enable the easy exchange of information between police in both countries in such cases. MLAs have been used in cases in the past, including the Imran Farooq murder, to prosecute individuals. Are such mechanisms being exhausted to nab the alleged culprits?

The fact that both the Dutch and UK authorities are taking the matter seriously should prompt some action in Pakistan. Sadly, aside from MNA Mohsin Dawar raising it in parliament, there is no discussion of this case, which is built around an alleged murder plot targeting a Pakistani dissident overseas. The government must demonstrate it respects free speech and human rights, and bring any possible perpetrators to justice.

Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2022

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