Wednesday May 22, 2024

Expert tells court about MQM’s history

By Murtaza Ali Shah
February 05, 2022

LONDON: The jury at Kingston Crown court heard from an expert witness that it was true that Altaf Hussain's followers in the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) were subjected to extrajudicial killings and the MQM founder spoke of "meeting violence with violence" in an all-out war for the rights of Mohajirs.

Doctor Nichola Khan, a senior lecturer at Brighton University and author of 'Mohajir Militancy in Pakistan: Violence and Transformation in the Karachi Conflict' has produced a written report on MQM for the Kingston Crown Court where Altaf Hussain has been appearing daily for a week now in relation to his trial on the ground of making an alleged terror-inciting speech.

Dr Khan told the jury about the history of the MQM, Pakistan, Altaf Hussain, the role of Rangers in Karachi, the formation of the All Pakistan Mohajir Students Organisation (APMSO), Afghan jihad and its effects on Karachi, role of the law enforcement agencies, the quota system and how things led up to the events of 22nd August 2016 when the MQM leader made the controversial speech that led to him being charged for an act of terrorism.

Appearing before the jury as an expert witness, Doctor Nichola Khan answered questions of lawyers for both the prosecution and the defendant. She informed the jury that the MQM was founded over the grievances faced by the Urdu-speaking Mohajir community and Altaf Hussain emerged as one of the strongest political leaders on Pakistani political horizon.

She told the court that the MQM became so powerful under Altaf Hussain's leadership that it was able to totally shut down Karachi and it would be dangerous to travel on roads. She told the court that although Altaf Hussain left for London in 1992 but retained full power over the party and Karachi's politics. She said that the MQM ran welfare schemes but also had a militant wing which the party never owned.

Dr Khan told the court that Altaf Hussain was able to manage successful strikes in the largest city of Pakistan and each strike could cost Pakistan around £37 million per day, according to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce. She said the year of 1995 saw 32 strikes in the city.

The expert told the jury that the MQM over time became so powerful that it became a matter of honour for people to join its ranks. She described the MQM as a moderate political party but not completely secular. Dr Khan added that the MQM supported women rights and has more women representation than any other political party of Pakistan.

The expert witness told the jury that Altaf Hussain expressed solidarity with Baloch groups when a crackdown in Balochistan was launched in 2015 as the MQM workers were at that time worried that a crackdown of the same nature could be launched against them too. After an attack on the Karachi airport, the MQM protested when a local law enforcement agency gained lots of powers because the MQM thought that these powers would be used ultimately against the MQM workers.

The expert told the court that by 2016, the MQM’s power had been much diminished. She explained the context of the ban on Altaf Hussain's speeches by the Lahore High Court and informed the jury that after Hussain's 22nd speech, two TV stations ARY and Samaa were attacked.

"There was gunfire," said the expert, adding: "One MQM worker was killed in the violence,allegedly by the police. Police vehicles were torched." On the third day of the hearing, the court had heard from the prosecution that Altaf Hussain had asked his followers to march towards offices of Geo News and two other channels during his 22nd August 2016 speech with the ultimate objective to shut down the transmissions of channels because these channels were censoring his speeches from London to Karachi.

Geo and ARY were referred to as the ultimate objective of the gathering after the Rangers HQ, according to the prosecution. The jury heard that Altaf Hussain later on said that he was "suffering from extreme stress due to extrajudicial killings" of his workers, but told the police he stood by what he said and had not committed an offence. Hussain denies the charge. Altaf Hussain has been charged on an indictment containing one count of encouraging terrorism contrary to s.1(2) of the Terrorism Act 2006.