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February 24, 2014

UK’s first legal assistance request still alive

February 24, 2014


LONDON: Britain didn’t withdraw the first legal assistance request sent to Pakistan in relation to the identification and handing over of the two suspects in connection with the Dr Imran Farooq murder.
A source here told The News that the first request was not withdrawn but indeed backed up by another request after Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service failed to receive a reply from Pakistan in more than four months.
The News had exclusively revealed in a story on 15 September, 2013, that Britain will write to Pakistan to seek help about the two men because Pakistan had not shared any information with the Counter Terrorism Command Unit after arresting them at the Karachi airport.
The interior minister sensationally confirmed on Thursday that the UK was in touch with Pakistan seeking information about Mohsin Ali Syed and Muhammad Kashif Khan Kamran -- the two men suspected of killing Dr Imran Farooq on 16 September 2010 outside his home here in Edgware.
The source said that there is no question of withdrawing the request in a case like Dr Imran Farooq’s almost all hallmarks lead to Pakistan where the two men are believed to have travelled to using Sri Lanka for stopover to hide their tracks. They were given extensive help in London during their surveillance mission.
Britain’s request to Pakistan for legal assistance makes it mandatory for Pakistan to help Britain in its criminal proceedings. UK has treaties on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters with various countries but none with Pakistan but the two countries have a long history of offering legal assistance to each other and the practice has obviated the need for a formal treaty.
London-based Barrister Iftikhar Ahmad, who is an expert on laws of international crimes, told The News that the other reason for not having the said treaty is vast issues between laws of Pakistan and UK, “impeding the finality or the treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) or extradition”.

explained: “The practice of Mutual Legal Assistance has been pivoting around the principle of reciprocity. Pakistan had invoked MLA in the case of Asif Zardari in late 90s when his alleged corruption cases were pending in Accountability Courts and Britain’s Bow Street Magistrates Court had complied with the Home Secretary’s directions to record evidence on matters raised against Asif Ali Zardari so that MLA need should be satisfied.
“Similarly, UK has been seeking assistance in various criminal matters like drugs, terrorism, money laundering, child abduction and other crimes. In 2010, Crown Prosecution Service appointed a Liaison Magistrate, based in Pakistan, to seek assistance on behalf of CPS.”
The starting point in MLA is that the matter for which the assistance is sought must be an ongoing criminal proceeding. In the case of Dr Imran Farooq murder investigation, the Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command Unit is making inquiries with full dedication but no one has yet been charged and therefore criminal proceedings have yet to start.
Barrister Iftikhar Ahmed opined that in such a scenario it is hard to say how Pakistan can oblige the UK request while the police is still inquiring and no charges have been brought. But he added: “Pakistan may still provide help with the inquiries, if they do so which, would be obliged under the reciprocity principle of MLA.
The Interior Ministry need to clarify what kind of assistance was sought by the UK government’s authorised agency, which includes CPS but not Scotland Yard, and if it was sought under MLA, what legal process the ministry is obliged to follow before providing assistance. Once a request under MLA is preferred the process in UK commences with evidence gathering before a magistrate. Does Pakistan follow similar procedure or it is left to the whim of the minister to oblige or not?
The question needs to be answered by the Interior Ministry.”A spokesman at Pakistan High Commission in London said that the UK authorities didn’t involve the PHC to send legal assistance request to Pakistan. The spokesman said that Pakistan and the UK cooperate with each other extensively on criminal matters to curb criminality. “There is an agreement between the UK and Pakistan on transfer of prisoners.Being friendly countries, Pakistan and the UK regularly share information with each other on various levels as and when required.”




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