Some furious back-pedalling was witnessed on Thursday night several hours after Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid made the dramatic announcement that Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain had been issued a Pakistani passport and a National Identity Card for Overseas Pakistanis (NICOP).
The information minister’s claim was refuted by MQM leader Wasay Jalil, who pointed out that the travel and identification documents were not passed on to anybody either in Pakistan or at Altaf’s residence in London. The move apparently came the same day that the British authorities granted the Pakistan High Commission to the UK consular access to Altaf.
Hours later, a federal government spokesman clarified that “the minister had actually said that it was decided in principle that a Pakistani passport” would be issued to the MQM chief. “The news that a Pakistani passport and identity card have been issued to Altaf Hussain is not correct,” the Associated Press of Pakistan quoted the spokesperson as saying.
At the press conference earlier, the information minister wished Altaf a speedy recovery and said the MQM chief has been issued documents that may help him in travelling to Pakistan.
An aide to Imran Mirza, the acting Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK, told The Express Tribune that it’s interesting to know that Islamabad has issued the documents on the basis of the same data that was earlier declared deleted by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.
Ministry officials also confirmed that the documents to Altaf Hussain have been issued on token No. 503601007637, issued to him by the National Database Registration Authority (NADRA) on April 4 at 6:55:18 pm.
NADRA officials explain that due to the urgency, the high commission on interior ministry’s directives issued Altaf a manual set of documents with the validity of six months.
One official said that manual documents were made at Pakistan’s High Commission on an urgent VVIP basis, despite a clear note on the High Commission of Pakistan’s official website that manual passports are not being issued by London and the Consulate of Pakistan in Bradford.
British authorities, who had earlier reportedly refused to provide Pakistan’s High Commission consular access to the MQM chief, accepted Pakistan’s request after a meeting with Imran Mirza Thursday morning.
A foreign office official in Islamabad told The Express Tribune that the British authorities were shown the scanned copies of Altaf’s renewed identification documents, certifying him as a Pakistani citizen.
The Pakistan High Commission in London had sought consular access to Altaf on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s order. However, authorities from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office had submitted a refusal to the request for consular access terming it Britain’s internal matter since Altaf did not produce any documents that proved him to be a Pakistani national. Therefore, he was being treated as a British citizen and the Crown Prosecution Service was to take a decision on Altaf once the London Metropolitan Police’s questioning concluded.
Pakistan’s interim high commissioner to the UK later updated the media about his meeting with the MQM chief, saying that Altaf Hussain is in high spirits and is being given the best medical facilities at the Wellington hospital. Mirza met with Altaf for 20 minutes.
Altaf thanked the prime minister and the people for their support, he added.
MQM delegation to meet Altaf in London
MQM leader Haider Abbas Rizvi said that an MQM delegation led by Senator Babar Ghauri is still waiting for approval to meet their leader. But there seems to be no sign of success in meeting him, he added.
Babar Ghauri told The Express Tribune that the high commissioner was given access as he was going with a legal stature. But the delegation is not being permitted to see Altaf in police custody.
Apart from Ghauri, the delegation comprises Qasim Ali Raza, Arshad Vohra, Saleem Danish, Khawaja Sohail and Saleem Zaidi.
Talking to the media outside Wellington hospital, Babar Ghauri said, “Consultations with the lawyers are under way. Well-known lawyer Farogh Naseem is also reaching London to provide assistance.”
After crawling back to normal, city shut down again
After two days of empty streets and closed businesses, the city had finally started to edge towards its normal routine when, merely a few hours later, shopkeepers were forced to close down.
The hustle and bustle was returning slowly after the MQM Rabita Committee members appealed to businessmen and transporters to resume businesses. However, Karachi Traders Alliance chairperson Atiq Mir told The Express Tribune that unidentified men threatened markets and shop owners in different parts of the city and forced them to shut down.
“The fuel crisis also affected businesses as people had difficulty commuting,” said Mir. As the crisis took its toll, hundreds of vehicles and people carrying jerrycans could be seen queuing up at the few petrol stations that were open.
The MQM, however, distanced themselves from the elements involved in the forceful closure of businesses. “We condemn such criminal activities and appeal to the people to reopen their businesses,” said MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar.
Talking to the media persons at Numaish Chowrangi where the sit-in protest entered its third day, Sattar said that the sit-ins being held in various cities will continue till the party workers are ensured that Altaf Hussain will not be pressurised unnecessarily.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2014.