Prosecution says MQM founder asked followers to march on TV channels


Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain. Photo: AFP
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain. Photo: AFP

LONDON: The Crown Prosecutor has told a jury that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain 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.

Opening the case against the MQM leader who faces incitement to terrorism charge, the prosecutor told the jury that the MQM leader repeatedly made references to Geo, ARY and Samaa in his address to his colleagues in Karachi. The jury heard that Hussain had asked his followers to gather outside the Rangers Karachi Headquarters and then march towards these channels.

Geo and ARY were referred to as the ultimate objective of the gathering after the Rangers HQ, according to the prosecution. The prosecution told the jury that in one phone call, the MQM boss asked an MQM-Pakistan leader to “call Geo” and other channels and tell them what they were airing was “rubbish” and that the workers would soon be coming to the premises to terminate the broadcasts.

The jury heard that the prosecution’s case against Hussain is based on several telephone recordings recovered by the police investigations in UK and Pakistan and these recordings demonstrate what the MQM boss and his party were doing and aiming to achieve ahead of Hussain 22nd August 2016 speech.

It’s understood that these recordings include data of telephone calls made from the UK to Pakistan in which instructions were passed about arrangements and the action plan. The prosecution said the MQM leader said on the day that nearly half a million people will gather around Karachi Press Club, will recite Kalima and then march towards the Rangers HQ. There will be some who will get martyred, he said according to the prosecution, and those who survive will grab hold of Rangers chief and get him outside.

The jurors were told about the various moments of the day when Altaf Hussain spoke to MQM’s senior leaders including Amir Khan, Dr Farooq Sattar and others. The jury was told that Hussain was agitated because the Lahore High Court had placed a ban on his speech and he made references to the ban by the court during his 22nd August speech.

On 17 August 2016, according to the case, Hussain spoke to senior leaders of MQM in Karachi, including Amir Khan and Aslam Afridi. Hussain discussed arrangements to set up a hunger strike camp outside Karachi Press Club to protest the ban on Hussain’s speeches by the LHC. The objective of the hunger strike camp, according to the prosecution, would be to grab maximum media attention towards the agitation of MQM and Altaf Hussain.

The jury was shown various pictures of the locations that are important to the case, such as the location of Karachi Press Club and the offices of Geo, Rangers HQ, ARY, Samaa and MQM Nine-Zero Office. The prosecution said Hussain had asked his workers to target these media organisations.

The prosecution told the jury that Altaf Hussain’s words that day were not mere rhetoric because action followed after what he said and what he actually intended was to assemble crowds to take physical action.

Slogans were then chanted against Pakistan, Sindh government, Nawaz Sharif, Pervaiz Rasheed and Rangers chief. The jury was told that after making an emotional address to his workers, Altaf Hussain said “Bismillah” and then his followers rose to their feet. One follower is heard saying that they will march on ARY and Samaa offices to question why they didn’t show Hussain’s pictures.

Altaf Hussain was charged in October 2019 under the Terrorism Act 2006 on suspicion of intentionally encouraging or assisting offences contrary to Section 44 of the Serious Crime Act 2007. He denies the charge. The trial will continue for at least two weeks.

Originally published in

The News

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