KARACHI: An anti-terrorism court (ATC) issued on Wednesday non-bailable warrants of arrest against Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) founding chief Altaf Hussain, senior leader in Pakistan Farooq Sattar and other party officials in two cases pertaining to Altaf's controversial speech on August 22 and the subsequent violence.
The warrants were issued by the ATC-II after it received the case from the ATCs' administrative judge, who is a sitting Sindh High Court justice, to conduct the trial.
US consul general calls on MQM leader Farooq Sattar
The ATC judge, accepting the charge sheets submitted against the suspects, ordered the investigation officer to present Altaf, Sattar, Amir Khan, MNA Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and other leaders and workers of the party on the next hearing on October 17.
The MQM leaders and workers have been accused of organising and participating in an event during which Altaf spoke against the sovereignty of the country and advocated its dismemberment. They have also been accused of praising the comments and chanting 'death to Pakistan' slogans along with Altaf.
The incident happened on August 22 when the party was observing a hunger strike for the recovery of its 'missing' workers and release of those jailed in 'fake cases' had entered its sixth day. The camp was staged outside the Karachi Press Club. Before this, the MQM leaders were holding meetings with the representatives of provincial and federal governments as well as with other political parties to sort out the issues and gain support.
A speech by the MQM chief in the afternoon, however, changed the scenario as riots erupted afterwards. Charged party workers, including women, allegedly attacked the ARY News office, setting ablaze a police vehicle and a motorcycle. During these riots, one person was killed while seven others injured.
Around 52 people associated with the party, including three leaders - MNA Kanwar Naveed Jameel, Shahid Pasha and Qamar Mansoor -, have been arrested on these charges while Altaf, Sattar, Khan and Siddiqui are among over 1,500 that are absconding.
Farooq Sattar survives highway crash
This is not the first time that a court has issued the arrest warrants for these leaders. Sattar, Siddiqui and other top leaders of the party have been declared proclaimed offenders in more than a dozen cases pertaining to a previous speech of Altaf in which he reportedly criticised the military establishment of the country.
MQM-Pakistan spokesperson Aminul Haq told The Express Tribune that these were 'cooked up' and 'politically motivated' cases against his comrades. "From [Pakistan Peoples Party founder and former prime minister] Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to Farooq Sattar, nearly all political leaders have faced such cases. However, the courts have given them clean chits later. The MQM is not afraid of these tactics and will continue its struggle despite all the difficulties."
Published in The Express Tribune, September 29th, 2016.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ