A Londoner spitting venom against Pakistan

Pakistan’s firebrand politician Altaf Hussain, who lives in London under self-exiled political asylum, recently embroiled his host, the United Kingdom, in a diplomatic embarrassment when he called for the separation of Karachi, Pakistan’s largest commercial hub and only port, from the country.

Addressing a post-election rally, Altaf Hussain, who has literally been ruling over Karachi through his fire-spitting speeches transmitted via telephone or video link, uttered a strange demand-cum-suggestion that Karachi should be separated from Pakistan if the city’s mandate in favor of his party was “not acceptable.” He also threatened to disturb the protestors of the rival Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) at a sit-in against the alleged rigging by MQM workers.

The British reaction

Ensuing hours saw British authorities, and London police, bombarded from all over the world with complaints against Altaf Hussain’s hate-speech, particularly from within the UK and Pakistan. Complaints prompted British High Commissioner to Islamabad, Adam Thompson, to hold a press conference and say his government was looking into the countless complaints against Altaf Hussain for necessary action. He said under UK laws promoting hatred and inciting violence would see the perpetrator liable for severe punishment. Strangely, he asked Islamabad to take serious notice of Altaf Hussain’s statements.

Altaf Hussain must keep reminding himself that difference of opinion is an essential ingredient of every democratic society

Mansoor Jafar

The day after the provocative statement was made, Altaf Hussain retracted his comments, as has happened many times in the past, saying he never demanded Karachi’s separation, and stressing that newsmen should have taken his statement “within the context.” It beats me how hundreds of newsmen intently listening to his speech could have taken it out of context. Even my understanding of his statement was not different from hundreds of other colleagues since there was nothing confusing about its “contexts.”

My impression was that such a statement reflected the psychological wear and tear Altaf Hussain has been undergoing because of the mounting pressures of the political retreat his party has been facing over the last few years. The British authorities have also been exercising restraint in dealing with mounting world pressure aimed at their hosting the uninvited guest.

Wielding terror

London Metropolitan police spokesman James Hume said his department was flooded with complaints against Altaf Hussain and his controversial statement was being translated to determine what laws should be invoked for proper proceedings. The London Police spokesman and the British High Commissioner in Islamabad both reaffirmed that the laws of their country did not allow anyone, particularly any citizen in asylum, to incite violence and hatred against any other country.

I hope this reaffirmation will encourage victims of Altaf Hussain’s MQM inside Pakistan to make proper complaints with the British authorities regarding the coercion and extortion of party workers; it is something always got away with it because of the terror they wield over the citizens of Karachi, Hyderabad and other urban areas of the Sindh province.

The heat of this turmoil reached directly to the British Prime Minister David Cameron when he was forced to come out of his official residence,10 Downing Street, to see hundreds of Pakistani expatriates, affiliated with Pakistan Tehrik Insaf (PTI) and right-winger Jamaat-e-Islami and other opposition groups, staging a demonstration against Altaf Hussain and demanding London ban those individuals and groups interfering in the affairs of other countries and inciting violence against their citizens. Many in Pakistan believe Altaf Hussain’s remote “controlled violence” against Islamabad has now become a test case for the UK. If London allows him to go scot free again it would force Pakistanis to think the British Crown was allowing expediency to prevail over laws of the land for a belated retribution to the independence of Pakistan from the British dominion.

Refrain from arrogance

It is time Altaf Hussain refrain from his arrogance and adopt a civilized democratic attitude since he has been a citizen of United Kingdom for the last 20 years, a country considered one of the oldest democracies in the world. As a seasoned politician who has been a leading politician since his student life, he must keep reminding himself that difference of opinion is an essential ingredient of every democratic society, it is deemed as the beauty of democracy.

Pakistan is a developing democratic state where the media and judiciary, which are gaining independence at a faster pace, have empowered the citizens to raise their voice for their democratic and fundamental rights, against all kinds of injustice. Instead of spewing out anger and vengeance against his political opponents, Altaf Hussain must respect their difference of opinion and the right to freedom of speech, acknowledging that they tend to show him the other side of the picture and make reforms in his own attitude and that of his party’s.



Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar

Last Update: Tuesday, 21 May 2013 KSA 07:52 - GMT 04:52
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.