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March 22, 2020

Anti-state speech cases adjourned due to coronavirus fears

Karachi

March 22, 2020

An anti-terrorism court on Saturday adjourned the hearings of two cases pertaining to anti-state speeches against the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-London (MQM-L) and MQM-Pakistan leaders without any proceedings because of coronavirus fears.

The ATC was scheduled to hear the testimony of Sub Inspector Pir Shabbir Haider in the cases. He was posted as the SHO of the Saddar police station when the incident occurred.

The judge, however, observed that in light of the instruction of the Sindh High Court to not gather a crowd in courtrooms, the hearing was adjourned till April 18.

According to the prosecution, the then chief of the MQM, Altaf Hussain, who has been living in self-exile in London for almost three decades now, uttered controversial remarks about the country and allegedly incited his party workers to resort to violence during his speech on August 22, 2016. His party was staging a demonstration against a ban on his media appearance.

One person was killed, several were injured, and a police mobile and a motorcycle were set on fire allegedly by charged protesters. Soon after these violent incidents, a crackdown was launched by the authorities against the party, which culminated in the party splitting in two more faction of the MQM-Pakistan and the MQM-London.

MQM-P senior deputy convener Amir Khan, MQM-Organisation Restoration Committee chief Farooq Sattar, MQM’s former spokesperson Qamar Mansoor, former MPA Shahid Pasha, MQM’s former deputy convener Shahid Pasha and MQM-P’s legal wing leader Gulfaraz Khattak and other leaders are booked for abetting speech and violence.

The cases were registered at the Artillery Maidan police station under sections 147, 148, 149, 186, 353, 324, 302, 435, 436, 337, 123A, 124A, 109, 114, 427, 506B and 395 of the Pakistan Penal Code read with sections 6 and 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act. Hussain has been declared proclaimed offender in the case.

Meanwhile, others ATCs also adjourned as many as 27 cases of similar nature till April 18 without any proceedings.

Several cases were registered against the MQM’s foreign and local leadership after the speech was aired on news channels and went viral on social media. Some of the cases were registered by the state and some were registered by private persons, who contended that they saw the speech on TV and it hurt their sentiments.