After being given the all clear by medics at the Wellington Hospital, London, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain has been shifted to Victoria police station in the custody of Scotland Yard officials for further interviews with regards to the charge of money laundering, an MQM leader confirmed to The Express Tribune requesting anonymity.
Altaf’s health was affirmed as ‘satisfactory’, following an angiography Friday morning and doctors said his mental and physical health was normal and satisfactory and he was released based on the angiography reports. Altaf’s statement will be recorded at the police station.
According to Scotland Yard, the time Altaf has spent at the hospital will not be included in the investigation time, and legal experts say it can take from 24 to 72 hours to investigate or interview a person in custody. Altaf has already been questioned for six hours by the police and so investigation time can be a maximum of 66 hours.
According to UK-based barrister Amjad Malik, if the police deem the evidence against the MQM chief to be sufficient, he can be indicted within one day and asked to appear in court. Additionally, he may be released on bail if the police require more time to gather evidence. Malik added that police interviews usually take no more than 8 hours in an average case.
Scotland Yard refused a request by the party leadership to allow Altaf to address party workers at sit-ins in Karachi. The demand was conveyed to the investigators through Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan Imran Mirza, who received a phone call from Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad.
The party’s legal team, led by Senator Farogh Naseem, and a delegation, led by Senator Babar Ghauri, made a similar request to the police, which was denied. However, Scotland Yard has allowed Altaf to remain in contact with Rabita Committee members at MQM‘s London Secretariat.
Altaf Hussain was taken into custody on Tuesday on suspicion of money laundering and was transferred to Wellington Hospital after his health was found to be poor. The Metropolitan Police of London opened investigation into a money laundering probe against the party leader after they reportedly recovered 250,000 pounds sterling from his house. The raid was conducted during an investigation into Imran Farooq’s murder.
‘No request for legal assistance’
Foreign Office spokesperson Tasnim Aslam said that the acting high commissioner visited Altaf on the instructions of the prime minister. The MQM leader thanked the PM for his message of solidarity and for ensuring consular access. “Altaf Hussain has not requested any legal assistance so far,” she said. “If the request is made, we will act as instructed by the PM,” Aslam told a weekly press briefing.
Additionally, she said the MQM chief cannot be issued a Pakistani passport unless he visits Pakistan’s High Commission in London. The interior minister has instructed the High Commission to provide consular services, including the provision of a national identity card for overseas Pakistanis (NICOP) and passport, to Altaf Hussain, she added. The party leader would have to follow certain procedures to obtain his passport.
The statement comes a day after the government announced that it had decided in principle to issue a NICOP and passport to Altaf Hussain. “The procedure is that in exceptional cases, for the NICOP, a team can visit the applicant and take details but for the passport, the applicant has to visit the High Commission,” Aslam explained, suggesting that it was mandatory for Altaf to visit the High Commission to obtain a passport.
“This was conveyed to Mr. Altaf Hussain about two to three weeks ago. Whenever, Mr. Altaf Hussain is ready to complete the process, these documents will be processed accordingly,” she added. However, the MQM insisted that Altaf has already completed all the legal formalities and hence there is no need for him to visit the High Commission.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 7th, 2014.