ISLAMABAD: In his careful reaction to the controversial statement issued by Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Husain, British High Commissioner Adam Thomson on Wednesday said that “statements like this have to be taken seriously.”
In a telephonic address this week, Altaf Husain had said that Karachi should be separated from Pakistan if the mandate given to the MQM is not acceptable. Thousands of complaints against Altaf were sent to the London metropolitan police after this statement.
It may be noted that Altaf Hussain and MQM leaders have repeatedly clarified that he did not mean separation of Karachi from Pakistan and his statement was taken out of context by the media.
“The London Metropolitan Police have been flooded with complaints from both Pakistani and British citizens about those remarks. What we say is that wherever somebody has a concern that hatred or violence is being incited, that one community or another is being turned against others, this should be reported to the police. And I know that they take such allegations very, very seriously indeed,” Thomson while addressing a press conference. He said if proved guilty, the MQM chief could face jail sentence.
About handing over Altaf Hussian to the Pakistani authorities, he said that it has to go through the whole extradition process for that. “It is complicated in the UK Pakistan case as there is no extradition treaty. It doesn’t make it impossible, but it does make it quite difficult,” said the High Commissioner.
He said that it is for London Metropolitan Police but not for the British High Commission, or the British High Commissioner, to say what they will do next. “Unlike some countries in the world, the British police are fiercely independent of British government. And it is for the British police to investigate allegations of incitement to violence or incitement to hatred,” he said while answering a question.
He said that Altaf Hussain has apparently retracted or denied his statement. “So he is not as I understand is maintaining a position that he is definitely going to disintegrate. But I don’t want to quibble. I repeat my first point which is that such statements are taken very seriously but please don’t underestimate the threat to the integrity of the state of Pakistan from terrorism.”
In his comments on the May 11 elections, he said Pakistan stands taller in the community of Nations as a result of these elections. Overall, he termed May 11 polls as technically the best elections that Pakistan has ever had and said that the shape of the results from these elections is not seriously in doubt.
“Of course, not everything on 11 May went perfectly. We are well aware of claims; things needed to be better and indeed lessons will no doubt be learnt from these elections. But overall I believe that Pakistan and Pakistanis can be very proud indeed of the 11 May elections.”
Thomson strongly endorsed the judgement made by the European Union’s Election Observation Mission that these elections were indeed a step forward for Pakistan. “And as a result, we have seen, what United Kingdom is deeply hoped for, which is the transition from one full term civilian government via credible elections to further civilian government at Federal and Provincial level. Consequently, democratic continuity has been strengthened.”
He said that the British prime minister has already spoken to Mian Nawaz Sharif to congratulate him on his party’s success in the elections. “The two men recognised the strong bond between the United Kingdom and Pakistan. And so that is a huge asset and they pledged themselves to work together to strengthen further the relations between the United Kingdom and Pakistan.”
Thomson said that British Foreign Minister William Hague has also issued a statement in which he commented among other things that those who went to the polls on 11 May, made a strong statement about the future they want for their country. “They clearly rejected terrorist violence and intimidation.”
He stressed for investigation of vote rigging allegations. “There is of course more to do to make the next round of elections in Pakistan even better. There was unacceptable violence in the run up to the elections and indeed on Election Day. There are now of course, and perhaps not too surprisingly, allegations of vote rigging. These do need to be investigated.”
The British High Commissioner also expressed concern over the reports of the exclusion of women in voting in some constituencies. “And more generally on women, the Election Commission of Pakistan made clear and before the 11th of May, there were some 11 million fewer women registered to vote than men. That is more than the entire population of Lahore. Imagine how much impact there might have been and how much more legitimacy to these elections, if that scale of population have been registered to vote.”
About the implications of May 11 elections for UK-Pakistan relations, he said they are wholly positive. “The elections and their conduct create even stronger prospects for closer UK-Pakistan collaboration on our shared challenges, on everything from countering violent extremism to boosting bilateral trade. We look forward to the resumption to a steady flow of the UK ministerial visitors coming in this direction to Pakistan. And we look forward to welcoming new Pakistani ministers to London, so we can pursue even deeper engagement with both the federal and provincial governments here, in mutual respect, for ever-deeper mutual interest and with ever-greater trust.”