Pakistani politician arrested in London amid probe of speeches

Founder of Pakistan's MQM party, Altaf Hussain, reacts during an interview at the party's offices in London. (Reuters/File)
Updated 11 June 2019

Pakistani politician arrested in London amid probe of speeches

  • When security forces cracked down on the party in the 1990s, Hussain sought asylum in the United Kingdom

LAHORE: British police arrested Pakistani politician Altaf Hussain in London on Tuesday as part of an investigation into speeches he gave as founder of a political party that ruled the megacity of Karachi for decades, media in Pakistan reported.
London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement a man in his sixties had been arrested after a joint investigation with Pakistani authorities.
It did not identify the person but said the arrest was "in connection with an investigation into a number of speeches made by an individual associated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) in Pakistan".
Hussain's representatives could not be reached for comment.
MQM has dominated the sweltering metropolis of Karachi, Pakistan's largest and wealthiest city, since the 1980s. When security forces cracked down on the party in the 1990s, Hussain sought asylum in the United Kingdom.
Even from exile in London, Hussain controlled the city through a powerful network. Karachi police and his opponents have accused him of exhorting his supporters to violence, charges he has denied.
Prime Minister Imran Khan came to power last year vowing to attack rampant political corruption in Pakistan and there have been a string of high profile cases.
Opposition parties say the government is using corruption as a pretext to silence its opponents while it also cracks down on groups such the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM), an ethnic Pashtun rights group.
Hussain's arrest in London followed other detentions of opposition politicians in Pakistan.
On Monday, former president Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), was arrested by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on corruption charges.
Zardari spent 11 years in jail on corruption and murder charges before becoming president in 2008. But he was never convicted and denies wrongdoing.
Zardari could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but the PPP said the cases are politically motivated.
On Tuesday, Hamza Shahbaz, nephew of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, was taken into custody on charges of money laundering and possessing assets beyond his means. He later told reporters he was not guilty.
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party said the arrest was politically motivated and part of a campaign to target opposition parties.


UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

Updated 18 August 2019

UK’s Johnson to visit European capitals seeking Brexit breakthrough

  • Johnson will travel for talks with German Chancellor Merkel and French President Macron
  • Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit

LONDON: UK's Boris Johnson will visit European capitals this week on his first overseas trip as prime minister, as his government said Sunday it had ordered the scrapping of the decades-old law enforcing its EU membership.

Johnson will travel to Berlin on Wednesday for talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and on to Paris Thursday for discussions with French President Emmanuel Macron, Downing Street confirmed on Sunday, amid growing fears of a no-deal Brexit in two and a half months.

The meetings, ahead of a two-day G7 summit starting Saturday in the southern French resort of Biarritz, are his first diplomatic forays abroad since replacing predecessor Theresa May last month.

Johnson is expected to push for the EU to reopen negotiations over the terms of Brexit or warn that it faces the prospect of Britain's disorderly departure on October 31 -- the date it is due to leave.

European leaders have repeatedly rejected reopening an accord agreed by May last year but then rejected by British lawmakers on three occasions, despite Johnson's threats that the country will leave then without an agreement.

In an apparent show of intent, London announced Sunday that it had ordered the repeal of the European Communities Act, which took Britain into the forerunner to the EU 46 years ago and gives Brussels law supremacy.

The order, signed by Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay on Friday, is set to take effect on October 31.

"This is a landmark moment in taking back control of our laws from Brussels," Barclay said in a statement.

"This is a clear signal to the people of this country that there is no turning back -- we are leaving the EU as promised on October 31, whatever the circumstances -- delivering on the instructions given to us in 2016."

The moves come as Johnson faces increasing pressure to immediately recall MPs from their summer holidays so that parliament can debate Brexit.

More than 100 lawmakers, who are not due to return until September 3, have demanded in a letter that he reconvene the 650-seat House of Commons and let them sit permanently until October 31.

"Our country is on the brink of an economic crisis, as we career towards a no-deal Brexit," said the letter, signed by MPs and opposition party leaders who want to halt a no-deal departure.

"We face a national emergency, and parliament must be recalled now."

Parliament is set to break up again shortly after it returns, with the main parties holding their annual conferences during the September break.

Main opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn wants to call a vote of no confidence in Johnson's government after parliament returns.

He hopes to take over as a temporary prime minister, seek an extension to Britain's EU departure date to stop a no-deal Brexit, and then call a general election.

"What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don't have a crash-out on the 31st," Corbyn said Saturday.

"This government clearly doesn't want to do that."

Britain could face food, fuel and medicine shortages and chaos at its ports in a no-deal Brexit, The Sunday Times newspaper reported, citing a leaked government planning document.

There would likely be some form of hard border imposed on the island of Ireland, the document implied.

Rather than worst-case scenarios, the leaked document, compiled this month by the Cabinet Office ministry, spells out the likely ramifications of a no-deal Brexit, the broadsheet claimed.

The document said logjams could affect fuel distribution, while up to 85 percent of trucks using the main ports to continental Europe might not be ready for French customs.

The availability of fresh food would be diminished and prices would go up, the newspaper said.