As Pakistan sought consular access to Altaf Hussain, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief spoke to leaders of his party on Wednesday and urged his supporters to “remain calm and peaceful, refrain from taking the law into their own hands”.
Meanwhile sit-ins were staged by the MQM supporters to protest the arrest of Altaf Hussain by the Scotland Yard on suspicion of money laundering.
The MQM chief made a phone call to the MQM International Secretariat in London and spoke to members of the Rabita Committee and other party leaders and workers. Later he also spoke to his daughter.
According to a press release issued by the MQM, Altaf said he had “neither disappointed the nation in the past, nor would he do in the future”. “Facing difficulties in my struggle is nothing new. I have faced such times in the past and my spirits are not at all dampened today,” he added.
Pakistan’s High Commission in the United Kingdom has conveyed to the Prime Minister’s Office that “London police is interrogating Altaf Hussain and has not responded to their request for the consular access to the person in custody”, said an official at Pakistan’s diplomatic mission in London. Nobody, even his daughter Afza Altaf, is allowed to see him, he added.
Separately, an official of the interior ministry explained to The Express Tribune why the request cannot be entertained at the moment. “Altaf Hussain is in the custody of the London police, not arrested, according to British law. If the police indict him after questioning, then he’ll be declared arrested and only then, we can meet him.”
A London police spokesperson claimed that Altaf could not be questioned in the hospital as per the law. Once the doctors allow him to leave, he will be taken to the police station where the interrogation will begin, he explained.
Speaking from London, MQM leader Wasay Jalil said the doctors have taken Altaf’s medical tests and they are waiting for the results to determine whether he is fit for police questioning or not.
Earlier, news reports claimed that the London Metropolitan police had asked for names of three people who will be allowed to meet with Altaf who was being treated at a local hospital. However, Jalil denied the news as untrue.
Emotion and summer-engendered fatigue pervaded in MQM camps across Sindh where hundreds of workers continued their sit-ins for a second day on Wednesday. They donated blood, lit diyas (earthen lamps), shouted slogans and some even cried.
Hundreds of protesters at Karachi’s Numaish Chowrangi expressed solidarity with their leader, demanding he speaks to them and he be released.
The party’s deputy convener, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, said, “We have witnessed difficult times in the past too. But Altaf Hussain will successfully come out of this.”
Separately, party activists and supporters staged sit-ins and demonstrations outside the press clubs in several districts of Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Bhanbore and Nawabshah divisions. The demos will continue until Altaf Hussain is released, said Syed Shakir Ali, a member of the party’s Rabita Committee.
In Sukkur, hundreds of MQM workers led by MPA Saleem Bandhani also staged a sit-in at Dolphin Chowk. According to media reports from Jacobabad, Larkana and Khairpur, MQM workers also continued their sit-ins that began Tuesday evening. However, business activities in the city, unlike other parts of Sindh, were running smoothly.
Late in the night, the Rabita Committee decided that the province-wide protest sit-ins would continue. Announcing the decision, Deputy Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui thanked traders and transporters for their cooperation in the protest. However, he appealed to the transporters and traders to resume their routine activities. He also asked owners of schools and colleges to reopen their educational institutions.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2014.