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UK-Pakistan: Altaf Hussain’s acquittal:

Sunday 20 February 2022, by siawi3


Altaf Hussain’s acquittal


Published February 17, 2022 - Updated about 15 hours ago

THERE is a surreal disconnect between the verdict returned on Tuesday in a London court and the lived reality of the millions who call Karachi home.

The 12-member jury in a majority verdict acquitted MQM supremo Altaf Hussain on two counts of “encouraging terrorism” under the UK’s Terrorism Act 2006. The charges pertained to two separate speeches made by the self-exiled political leader via telephone to supporters in Karachi on Aug 22, 2016. In a statement to this paper, the law firm that represented Mr Hussain said: “… Today he has been vindicated by an English jury. Justice has been done.”

Those who for decades suffered the violence that Mr Hussain repeatedly orchestrated at will in Pakistan’s largest city even while sitting thousands of miles away, would beg to differ. It was well known that a mere phone call from London would suffice to mobilise MQM militants who would then proceed to paralyse commercial activities in Karachi on the point of a gun. However, the defence argument that the jury arrive at its decision after applying “a different cultural yardstick” may have been a winning one.

Read: What Altaf said...

“The way state actors, government, police, other state bodies [act is] completely different to what we experience here,” contended Mr Hussain’s lawyers. Evidently, residents of Karachi cannot aspire to a more civilised political culture than that which they were forced to endure for years on account of complex factors.

Among these, aside from the political expediency of military dictators Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf, was also the Pakistani establishment and the West’s view of the MQM chief and the organisation over which he wielded an iron grip despite being in exile since 1992, as a ‘bulwark’ against religiously motivated extremists in Karachi. The party’s militant wing was thus enabled in creating an environment of fear and intimidation that left virtually no part of the city unaffected.

At the same time, the argument that the state here treats the people differently can be taken a little further. After Mr Hussain was banned from Pakistan’s airwaves following a tirade against the army in 2015, a year before making the speeches for which he was tried in the UK, efforts to cut the MQM down to size began in earnest. In reality, what was set in motion was a ‘minus-Altaf’ formula.

The state, instead of holding accountable those among the party leadership that were accused of serious crimes, which included ordering targeted killings of recalcitrant citizens, co-opted them in political arrangements to be activated when necessary — such as to play the role of spoilers in an election. All that has been achieved by these machinations is further disillusionment and a sense of disenfranchisement among Sindh’s Urdu-speaking populace. Those in the state apparatus that are incredulous at Mr Hussain’s acquittal should ask themselves why so many who have visited violence upon Karachi’s residents are roaming free.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2022

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