Monday April 22, 2024

Long, unending list of allegations against MQM and Altaf

By Sabir Shah
March 04, 2016

Charges never proven denied by the MQM

LAHORE: Tracing its roots in the All Pakistan Mohajir Student Organisation that was founded on June 11, 1978, by Altaf Hussain at Karachi University, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement has been accused of many serious offences since March 18, 1984, or the date of its formal establishment by various Army regimes, almost all political parties in the country, the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, the Amnesty International and even by its dissidents like Afaq Ahmed MQM-Haqiqi, Ajmal Pahari, Saulat Mirza and Mustafa Kamal etc.

This should be noted that MQM always denied all the charges. Moreover none of the allegations against MQM was proved till today.

In January 2013, the notorious human killing machine, Shahnawaz alias Ajmal Paharia S/o Manzoor Hussain, was re-arrested a few days after he was acquitted and set free despite his on-camera confession of involvement in 111 murders.

He was arrested by the Anti Extremist Cell of Karachi Police Crime Investigation Department on March 18, 2011, from his New Karachi area hideout.

Ajmal said he belonged to the MQM and was trained by five Indian army officers. He had confessed during probe that MQM-Altaf was behind the ‘Moharram bombings of 2009’ in Karachi

A peek through the archives of various national newspapers reveals that Ajmal Pahari had admitted murdering Iqbal Raad,  lawyer of Nawaz Sharif, in year 2000, adding in his statement before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) that his handler Nadeem Nusrat was based in the MQM London Secretariat.

He had held that it was Nadeem Nusrat, who had directed him to escape from Pakistan to Singapore in 1996 with Zeeshan, another MQM worker. In March 2015, yet another target killer Saulat Mirza had said on national television network that he was an MQM worker and had received orders from party boss Altaf Hussain to assassinate the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation Chairman Shahid Hamid on July 5, 1997.

He had alleged: "I was summoned at Babar Ghauri’s house where I took Altaf Hussain’s orders via telephone. Altaf Hussain would usually pass on instructions through Babar Ghauri." The MQM chief Altaf Hussain had said: "Without any proof or evidence, Saulat Mirza's statement will not have any effect on the party."

Babar Ghauri too had dismissed Mirza’s statement as a "fable" and denied having given any order for a murder. Saulat had further said: "Mustafa Kamal was humiliated and then sidelined from the party because he had grown popular and Azeem Tariq was murdered for the same reason."

Saulat's execution, originally scheduled for March 19, 2015, was deferred for 72 hours, but he was eventually sent to the gallows on May 12, 2015, but not before he had spilled the beans. Till date, following confessions of Ajmal Pahari and Saulat Mirza, no concrete action against anybody in MQM's rank and file has been initiated.

And now, former Karachi Mayor Syed Mustafa Kamal has suddenly emerged after an absence of nearly 31 months, accusing Altaf Hussain of maintaining frequent links with RAW, the Indian intelligence agency and dropping hints between the lines that the MQM boss had anything to do with Imran Farooq's 2010 murder. But Altaf is perhaps used to hearing and facing such allegations of murder, violence, extortion, land grabbing, abductions, of receiving foreign funding to destabilise Pakistan and killing his own loyalists for disobedience. Nothing has happened to the MQM supremo till date. He continues to call shots in Karachi and Hyderabad.

And why not--his party had first enjoyed the privilege of being the key bargainers’ group between 1988 and 1997, when both Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had needed MQM national assembly votes to form federal governments.

And then General Musharraf's October 5, 2007, National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) had pardoned all politicians, political workers and bureaucrats allegedly involved corruption, murders, money laundering and terrorism etc between January 1, 1986 and October 12, 1999. Among the 8,041 National Reconciliation Ordinance beneficiaries were many MQM leaders, including Altaf Hussain, too!

Archival research shows that once his coalition partners, both Benazir and Nawaz, had turned against Altaf Hussain. Both had aired anti-MQM statements, and Altaf was found good at reciprocating the gesture and paying back in the same coin. For example, during the course of one of his December 1989 speeches, Altaf became the first-ever Pakistani politician who titled sitting Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's spouse Asif Ali Zardari as "Mr Ten Percent."

And many years down the road, Altaf had nominated Asif Zardari for Pakistan’s Presidency. Benazir Bhutto had then reportedly asked the British foreign secretary Douglas Hurd to restrain Altaf Hussain from using the UK soil for violence, besides requesting Britain to extradite the MQM chief so that he could stand trial in police cases where he had been nominated.

However, the United Kingdom had turned down her request to hand over Altaf Hussain. Benazir had denied all media reports in this context though and had served a legal notice on a Pakistani newspaper.

The July 29, 2013 edition of "The Guardian" had stated: "The UK itself has questions to answer. It has resisted repeated Pakistani requests to hand over Hussain so that he can stand trial for murder in Pakistan. Altaf Hussain arrived in London in February 1992 and just three years later, Benazir Bhutto -– then prime minister--was asking for London’s help."

It had quoted Benazir as saying: "I think the British government has a moral responsibility to restrain Altaf Hussain and say you cannot use our soil for violence." It had added: "Some 18 years later, Imran Khan’s appeal was strikingly similar."

The reputed British media outlet had quoted Imran as asserting: "I blame the British government. Would they allow someone to sit in Pakistan and threaten people in the UK? They know about his track record."

"The Guardian" had further maintained: "Pakistan's point to other instances where they believe the UK has favoured Altaf Hussain. In 2002 he was issued with a UK passport. Off the record, British officials admit that the process by which he obtained nationality was flawed – a decision in January 1999 to grant him indefinite leave to remain in the UK was made as a result of a "clerical error". Despite repeated questions, the Home Office has refused to disclose what that error was."

The July 29, 2013, edition of The Guardian" had gone on to write: "It's difficult to know how many murder cases have been registered against Altaf Hussain, but perhaps the most authoritative number was released in 2009 when the then Pakistani president General Pervez Musharraf implemented his National Reconciliation Order, granting most of the country's senior politicians an amnesty. One of the biggest beneficiaries was Hussain, against 72 cases were dropped, including 31 allegations of murder. The MQM rejects all the murder charges lodged against Hussain. On two occasions British judges have found that the MQM is a violent organisation. In 2010, a Karachi-based police officer sought asylum in the UK claiming the MQM was threatening to kill him in revenge for his having registered a case against one of its members. The judge, Lord Bannatyne, granted asylum and in his judgment accepted that "the MQM has killed over 200 police officers who stood up to them in Karachi."

The premier British media outlet had revealed: "The Counter Terrorism Command have launched a massive and sustained investigation into Farooq's death. In December last year they raided the MQM's Edgware offices where they found substantial thousands of documents. Since most of the material is in Urdu and some, from MQM lawyers, is subject to client privilege, assessing it is extremely time-consuming. But with 12 officers working on the case full-time and a whole range of specialists available to carry out specific tasks when needed, the police are still showing real determination to trace Farooq's killer."

"The Guardian" was never short of words: "Right from the start the police raids in the investigation have produced rich material. Shortly after the 2010 murder the police found a significant number of papers stashed in Farooq's home. Some of the documents gave credence to the confessions made by a number of suspected MQM militants in Karachi. Repeatedly, MQM activists there had told the Pakistani authorities they were trained in India. Asked on numerous occasions over a period of several weeks about its relationship with the MQM, Indian government officials have failed to make any statement on the matter. Recent police raids have turned up £150,000 at the party's Edgware's offices and £250,000 at Hussain's house in Mill Hill."

Having chosen to be the coalition partners of innumerable federal governments during 1988 -1990, 1990-1992, 2002-2007 and 2008-2013, Altaf Hussain MQM's was also accused by the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services and Amnesty International etc of committing human rights abuses.

In May 2014, the Amnest International had viewed: "Journalists are also victims of human rights abuses by non-state groups across the country. Aggressive competition for media space means that powerful political actors across the country put severe pressure on journalists for favourable coverage. In Karachi, supporters of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ) religious group and others stand accused of harassing or killing journalists they consider critical."

A February 1996 report of the Amnesty International had stated: "During the period when the MQM held office, Amnesty International obtained testimonies from members of the PPP and smaller Sindhi parties that their members had been tortured and killed in the custody of the MQM(A). Reporters, editors and publishers reported that they had been threatened by MQM members to report favourably or to "face the consequences."

Amnesty had added: "In more recent times, too, individual cases of abuses by the MQM(A) and other political groups have been reported in the national press and to Amnesty International which strongly suggests that these armed opposition groups are indeed responsible for many cases of torture, hostage taking, abductions and deliberate and arbitrary killings reported in Karachi. Amnesty International therefore reiterates its urgent call to all armed political groups in Karachi to stop committing such abuses and to ensure that all of their members are clearly instructed that torture, abductions, hostage-taking and killings may not be committed. While Amnesty International condemns the abuses committed by an armed opposition group, its stand does not carry a connotation of recognition or condemnation of that group nor does it constitute a comment on the legitimacy of its goals or political programme. Again, Amnesty International's intervention does not imply any judgment on the nature of the conflict in question in the context of which human rights abuses occur."

In 1994, the United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services had viewed: "The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Altaf (MQM-A) has been widely accused of human rights abuses since its founding two decades ago. It claims to represent Mohajirs— Urdu-speaking Muslims who fled to Pakistan from India after the 1947 partition of the Subcontinent, and their descendants. In the mid-1990s, the MQM-A was heavily involved in the widespread political violence that wracked Pakistan's southern Sindh province, particularly Karachi, the port city that is the country's commercial capital. MQM-A militants fought government forces, breakaway MQM factions, and militants from other ethnic-based movements."

A June 25, 2015, report of the BBC had stated: " The BBC learnd from an authoritative Pakistani source" that "British authorities held formal recorded interviews with senior MQM officials who told them the party was receiving Indian funding. A Pakistani official has told the BBC that India has trained hundreds of MQM militants in explosives, weapons and sabotage over the last 10 years in camps in north and northeast India. Before 2005-2006, the training was given to a small number of mid-ranking members of the MQM. More recently greater numbers of more junior party members have been trained."

The afore-cited report had further said the UK authorities had started investigating the MQM in 2010 when its senior leader Dr Imran Farooq was stabbed to death in London.

It said: "In the course of inquiries, police found around £500,000 in MQM’s London offices and in the home of MQM chief Altaf Hussain. That prompted a second investigation into possible money laundering. As the UK police investigations have progressed, the British judiciary has been taking an increasingly tough line on the MQM. Back in 2011, a British judge adjudicating an asylum appeal case found that the MQM has killed over 200 police officers who have stood up against them in Karachi. Last year another British judge hearing another such case found out that there was overwhelming objective evidence that the MQM for decades had been using violence."

The BBC had claimed that the UK authorities were told by MQM officials that they received Indian government funds and training. According to the report, in the past 10 years, hundreds of MQM militants had been trained in weapons, explosives and sabotage in north and northeastern Indian camps. As usual, the MQM had rejected all allegations levelled in the BBC report.

The PTI Chairman Imran Khan, on May 20, 2013, had accused Altaf of being directly involved in the murder of his party leader Zehra Shahid. Meanwhile, a key PTI stalwart Dr Arif Alvi had accused the MQM of seeking the US Consul General’s help in purchasing weapons in return for providing 11,000 men for the security of the Consulate. This serious allegation was also rejected by the MQM.

In June 2015, a London-based MQM leader Tariq Mir had alleged Altaf Hussain of receiving Indian funding.

President Qaumi Awami Tehreek, Ayaz Latif Palejo, had then promptly demanded of the government to impose ban on MQM after Tariq Mir’s alleged statement to Scotland Yard.

After Altaf, in a televised speech, had called for making Karachi a separate province, he was greeted by condemnation from all corners.

For instance, Ayaz Latif Palejo had sought an apology from Altaf over his controversial statement.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had broken into a furious rage too.

In 2006, while hearing the Iftikhar Jalil versus the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration case, the Federal Court of Canada had branded MQM a terrorist organization.

The court had remarked: "An Amnesty International report stating that the government of Pakistan held the MQM-A responsible for most of the human rights abuses perpetrated in Karachi. In the mid-1990s, the US State Department, Amnesty International and others accused the MQM-A and a rival faction of summary killings, torture and other abuses. Further, MQM-A used killing and other violence to keep shops closed and people off the streets. During strikes, MQM-A activists ransacked business that remained open and attacked motorists and pedestrians who ventured outside."

On June 20, 1991, several MQM leaders and workers were accused to have masterminded the kidnapping and torture of Pakistan Army's serving Major, Kaleem Ahmed.

In 1994, a Special Court for Suppression of Terrorist Activities had convicted Ashfaque Chief, Javed Kazmi and Haji Jalal and had sentenced them to a total of 30 years’ rigorous imprisonment and a fine of Rs20,000 each under various sections of the Pakistan Penal Code and the Enforcement of Hudood Ordinance. All other accused, including Altaf Hussain, were declared absconders and sentenced to 27 years jail and a fine of Rs30,000 each in absentia.

The convicts had challenged their conviction and sentences before the Sindh High Court.

On February 6, 1998, the Sindh High Court had found all defendants innocent, saying the case was one "of almost no legal evidence."

However, on February 20, 1998, Major Kaleem had filed a petition before the Supreme Court, pleading that the High Court had erred by acquitting the accused who did not surrender themselves before the trial court. He had argued that there was sufficient evidence against the respondents to prove their guilt.

On Monday, August 13, 2007, the Supreme Court had dismissed as withdrawn a petition for appeal against the acquittal of 18 MQM leaders and activists by the Sindh High Court in the Major Kaleem case.

The 18 respondents in the state appeal were Dr Imran Farooq, Saleemul Haq alias Saleem Shahzad, Muhammad Ashfaque Chief, Dr Safdar Baqari, Javed Kazmi, Haji Jalal Khan, Rehan Zaidi, Asghar Chacha, Sajid Azad, Arshad Naeem, Ashraf Zaidi, Ismail Qureshi alias Sitara, Aftab Ahmed Sabziwala, Ayub Shah Medical Storewala, Yusuf Bakerywala, Nadeem Ayubi, Sarfaraz and Ikram. Major Kaleem’s petition had mentioned Altaf Hussain’s name also.

But it was the Major Kaleem abduction Case actually that had reportedly infuriated the Army High Command in 1992 to launch the Operation Blue Fox against the MQM in Karachi.

Research shows that during 1992, when the Jinnahpur conspiracy had surfaced, the Nawaz Sharif -led IJI government had completely denied the existence of Jinnahpur conspiracy, insisting that the plot was a figment of imagination of the PPP leaders, but the Benazir Bhutto-led PDA (Pakistan Democratic Alliance) had accused the sitting government of covering up the MQM’s conspiracy.

Although the MQM has been lashing out against the PML-N in later years for designing the Jinnahpur conspiracy, Altaf Hussain used to hail the 1992 Nawaz government for exposing the anti-state plan aimed at making a separate homeland with the Indian support.

On October 14, 1992, Altaf Hussain had also demanded a probe into the matter by the Supreme Court.

On October 17, 1992, a key PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan had said that Jinnahpur plot did not exist.

Nisar had commented: "The government would not allow anyone to subvert the rights of Muhajirs. It is baseless that we have ever discussed the creation of the so-called Jinnahpur with the MQM."

The same day, the ANP Chief Ajmal Khattak had said there was no truth in the reports that the MQM had planned anything to break Pakistan or to establish Jinnahpur.

On October 19, 1992, the national Press had carried an ISPR press release, conveying Army’s denial of the knowledge of the Jinnahpur plan.

The ISPR had stated: "The Army had no evidence concerning the so-called Jinnahpur plan, it is clarified that the newspaper story in question is baseless. The Army has neither handed over to the government any document or map as reported, not is it in possession of any evidence concerning the so-called ‘Jinnahpur’ plan. It is also factually wrong that the matter was discussed at any meeting of the corps commander."

Over the years, Altaf Hussain has been blamed by his opponents of not only killing his political adversaries, but has also been accused of gunning down some of his trusted lieutenants.

Currently being probed in connection with the 2010 murder of his close aide Dr. Imran Farooq in London, many of his foes think he was behind the assassination of Azeem Ahmed Tariq too. Nothing has proven against him though, but a target killer namely ‘Nadeem alias Naddu’ (a former in charge of MQM’s Korangi sector) had confessed killing Azeem Ahmed Tariq on May 1, 1993 at the behest of MQM's top leadership.

In his confessional statement, Nadeem had admitted that along with Javed alias Jadu, Imam Din alias Shafi, Taj Din alias Taju and Javed alias Langra, he had shot Azeem dead.

A good number of Pakistani media outlets had carried this story in March 2015.

In November 1994, Mansoor Chacha, the Deputy Secretary General of the MQM-Haqiqi, was murdered with his family in Karachi. Mansoor had actually parted ways with Altaf and sided with Afaq Ahmed.

In October 1995, a group of eight suspected members of the MQM had stood outside the Sindh Province Secretariat for nearly 20 minutes, firing grenades at the office complex, setting fire to the Secretariat building and destroying the office of the Provincial Health Minister Shamim Ahmad, who had switched his allegiance from MQM to the then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party in 1994.

Altaf and MQM are still blamed for killing nearly all police officers who had assisted the Pakistan Army in the 1992-1996 Operation.

A few years ago, the Supreme Court had ordered the then Inspector General of Police to report in a month on the disappearance or murders of all policemen who took part in the Karachi operations of 1992 and 1996.