While much of the media focus remains on Taliban issue and Musharraf’s trial, a development occurring largely beyond the public eye pertains to the 16thSeptember 2010 murder of MQM co-founder Dr. Imran Farooq in London outside his home in Edgeware, London. This especially concerns the possibility of a UK-Pakistani swap of a couple of individuals of concern to each country that may not only solve the great murder mystery but also seal the fate of exiled MQM leader Altaf Hussain.
Official efforts have gained momentum in recent months to secure the transfer of two murder suspects currently in the custody of Pakistani intelligence, Mohsin Ali Syed and Muhammad Kashif Khan Kamran, to the UK—with Pakistani authorities demanding in return the handover of two Baloch separatist leaders, Harbiyar Marri and Mehran Baloch, living in the UK.
The recent disclosure of a confidential letter from Wajid ShamsulHassan , Pakistan’sHigh Commissioner in London, addressed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which had expressed great alarm at the activities of Balochi leaders, provides a clue that the ground for the purpose is indeed being laid.
Following this disclosure, Harbiyar, who has asylum status in the UK, has attempted to preempt Pakistan’s future request for his extradition by clarifying that he has “not broken any British rule,” therefore, the UK cannot hand him over to Pakistani authorities.
Thus far, according to Interior Ministry sources, Pakistan has not formally requested the UK government for the handover of either Harbiyar or Mehran, who is a British national—even though successive governments have indeed raised the issue of their sponsorship of separatist struggle in Balochistan with the British government several times before.
Pakistan does not have a formal extradition treaty with the UK, but its civilian and military regimes have both been reluctant to sign one—given the fact that London has been a preferred place of exile abroad for many leaders, from Benazir and Altaf to Musharraf and the Sharifs, in times of trouble at home.
For this reason, it is difficult to envision the two countries agreeing to an extradition treaty any time soon. Therefore, they may instead look for a via media for a swap like this, if and when efforts for the purpose gain momentum in the days ahead.
However, this will not be an easy task, especially because anyone on asylum status or with British nationality enjoys a level of legal freedoms which complicates the extradition of prominent individuals residing in the UK to their countries of origin, be they ‘wanted criminals’ or politicians in exile.
Especially because Mehran has a British nationality, another possible name whose handover the Pakistani authorities may seek as part of a swap is Lyari’s alleged gang war leader Habib Jan Baloch, who also resides in the UK.
If it was up to the Sharif government alone, then it would have handed over the two murder suspects in the custody of intelligence service to British authorities by now. It is the intelligence services, in whose custody the two suspects of Dr Farooq’s murder are, which is not in favor of handing them over to the UK without getting in return two of the three wanted Baloch leaders.
“The two individuals who have confessed to the crime and the British authorities are also certain about their murder trail are bargaining chips in the hands of our intelligence. So why not use them to get hold of a couple of most wanted persons living freely in the UK,” argues a security official, while requesting anonymity.
Sources in the Interior Ministry also claim that the government has already responded positively to Scotland Yard’s last year request for gaining access to the alleged assassin—“by providing their DNA samples and sharing the confessional statements obtained during local investigation.”
Dr.Farooq was killed using knife and bricks at his doorstep. The murder weapons were left at the scene of the crime. Thus the DNA from the two suspects could establish whether or not they were at the scene of the murder.
Even if Pakistan agrees to hand over the two murder suspects to the UK without demanding anything in return, there will still be a major hitch in the process: For their confession will not be treated as evidence in the British court proceeding, as they are under intelligence custody and thus can be coerced to confess. One possible option could be to release them from detention, and then re-arrest them through proper judicial process by the police and subsequently handover to the UK.
Britain’s Crown Prosecution Service has already twice filed the legal assistance request with the present government concerning the identification and handing over of the two suspects in Dr Farooq’s murder, Mohsin and Kashif. The first request was made late last year, as Pakistan had not shared any information with the UK’s Counter Terrorism Command Unit after arresting the two murder suspects from Karachi Airport on 5th January 2011.
Mohsin and Kashif had reportedly come on a flight from Sri Lanka. Both had come to the UK in February and early September 2010, respectively, to study at the London Academy of Management Sciences, but subsequently spent months doing surveillance of Dr. Farooq. And both had departed from London’s Heathrow Airport within hours of his murder.
Shamim Khalid, who is the principal character in this murder saga—had come to the Karachi airport along with a companion named Irfan to receive them, were also picked up by the intelligence personnel. The alleged financier of the murder, the South Africa-based MQM activist named Fazal, was subsequently arrested from Lahore on the eve of last year elections.
So far the specific reported details of the murder—including even the mobile phone number 0300-825204412 the alleged killers used for communicating back home after committing the murder—seem to link them with the MQM leadership in Karachi and hence its counterpart at the London-based International Secretariat of the MQM.
Mohsin and Kashif were sent to London by Shamim, a close associate of Hammad Siddigue, the former head of the Karachi Tanzeemi Committee (KTC). Mr Siddiqui fled to Dubai last year after the Sindh government issued a red warrant for his arrest. The KTC worked in tandem with the London Secretariat.
Thus far, the only high profile arrest in connection with the murder that London Metropolitan Police has made was when in December its Counter-terrorism Unit arrested Iftikhar Hussain, the nephew and confidante of MQM chief Altaf Hussain, as he returned from Canada to Heathrow Airport. Despite his subsequent release on bail, police officials dealing with the case are confident about the veracity of their version of why and how Dr Farooq was killed, and who ordered, organized, handled and conducted his killing.
As a co-founder of MQM, Dr Farooq had been unhappy about the manner in which the party affairs were being led from London by Altaf Hussain and managed by his loyalists at home. But he also knew about the consequences of doing so, which is why he had sought personal security from the Scotland Yard some months before his murder. But to no avail.
Interestingly, also connected with his murder investigation is the issue of money laundering, which goes back to December 2012, when the London Metropolitan Police had seized £250,000 in mixed currencies at the MQM party headquarters in London. Last June, the police seized another £230,000 after a raid of Altaf’s Edgeware residence.
The MQM has claimed the seized money is party funds and donations from well-wishers and party sympathizers. Yet, since no taxes were paid on this huge sum of money, the money laundering issue continues to haunt MQM’s leadership in London. Four of the party membershave been interviewed in this connection since December. Last month Inbisat Malik, the member of MQM’s Central Coordination Committee in London, was jailed for 21 months in a mortgage case linked to money-laundering investigation that originated during Dr Farooq’s murder investigation.
Inbisat is the brother of Dr Nishat Malik, the former head of All Pakistan Muhajir Student Organization (APMSO). He is also the son-in-law of Mohammad Anwar, the head of London Secretariat and a close aide of Altaf. He is believed to have handled the party’s financial transactions from Karachi to London via Dubai, allegedly by whitening the extortion money received from Karachi through real estate investment in Dubai.
The noose, it seems, is tightening around the MQM chief’s neck. If we go by the recent past pattern of events concerning British police investigation into the murder of Dr Farooq, then it may be a matter of time only when the current covert cooperation between Pakistani and UK authorities becomes overt enough to solve the murder mystery and expose its principal character.
Perhaps sensing such likelihood, MQM pundits who are still in Karachi or have fled from there have started to sharpen their knives—and prepare for the great battle for power that may begin as soon as luck stops to favour the party chief in exile.
By Abdul Khalique Ali, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, March 17, 2014