LAHORE - Though Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan stated on Sunday about taking up the alleged hate speech of MQM Quaid Altaf Hussain with the Britain, the government has yet to decide on proceeding with reference against him.

“We want to come up with solid proofs against Altaf Hussain so that he could not escape punishment. As such what legal course suits the end is seriously under consideration,” said Special Assistant to Prime Minister Ashtar Ausaf Ali, while talking to The Nation. The MQM chief is still a Pakistani national, so he can be tried in the country of his residence, the UK, as well as the country of his origin, Pakistan,” Ashtar said. The matter as to which forum of which state should be approached is deeply under consideration and a decision in this respect would be taken in the next few days, he added.

Independent lawyers are of the view that a case against Altaf Hussain can be instituted in either country in view of the fact that law of which country has been breached.

Ashtar said Altaf, in his address to his party men, crossed all limits against the defence institutions and sovereignty of Pakistan while inciting his workers against the state and inviting intervention of the enemy state. This all prima facie falls under the act of high treason in terms of Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan, he added. As to the British law, his utterances are covered under the law of inciting hatred which, however, carries far below criminal liability as compared with the high treason, he added.

Article 6 provides minimum life term and maximum death sentence to an accused on conviction.

Ashtar Ausaf said evidence and other material relevant to Altaf’s speech on Saturday and earlier are being gathered and in light of that decision will be taken to move a case against him in the state where he could be awarded exemplary punishment. To a question, he said the government will pursue the case against the MQM chief even the same is instituted before the court in Britain.

As regards checking of allegedly obnoxious speeches of Altaf, he said the option of invoking Pemra law and Telegraphic Act are also under review. These laws, he said, also apply to those who arrange address of Altaf Hussain and invite people to listen to the same. He said, in accordance with the National Action Plan framed to curb terrorism, such acts are considered as facilitating an offence and the act of Altaf and his associates is also being scrutinised under the NAP.

When asked how a Pakistani law can be applied to an accused who commits an offence in a foreign land, Ashtar said in case of Altaf, the legal jurisdiction of both the countries is available. Altaf is still a Pakistani and a UK resident, who can be tried in both the countries for the violation of law of each state, he said, explaining the MQM chief delivered a hate speech under the UK law and hit the sovereignty and the defence institution of Pakistan. He cited example of a British national, Tariq Rana, who went to England after murdering a person in Pakistan and the UK court initiated a case against him on a plea from Pakistan and was punished. He said it is a universal norm that no crime should go unpunished as such they would go to the UK to get Altaf penalised.

The PM aide further told this scribe that the MQM members of the Parliament can also be deseated for abetting Altaf’s hate speech under Article 63 of the Constitution, under which a member who speaks against sovereignty of the state and scandalises the institutions can be disqualified.

Former law minister Dr Khalid Ranjha said evidence would determine what offence is established against Altaf and which country should take up the matter. He saw no legal bar in filing a reference before a UK court against Altaf Hussain, but that forum would not prosecute him unless an offence is prima facie made out through investigations. As to the local law, he said, sections 221, 222 and 223 are available to deal with a person who declares revolt and instigates others. However, will of the government to act is pivotal in the whole episode, he said, terming the issue more of political bend than legal.

Senior jurist and former SCBA president Abid Hassan Manto, commenting on the issue, said the government can move the UK against Altaf if it wants, which hardly appears in the present situation. Manto said it needs debate whether one can exploit freedom of speech given by the UK to that extent of speaking ill against others which Altaf allegedly did. And after its determination, next step would be the question of quantum of offence, the forum of trial and its punishment. Manto did not find existence of any terminology of legal or political reference in the jurisprudence of either country to act on the matter like one in hand.

A former law minister, while speaking on the condition of not being named, said the mutual legal framework between Pakistan and the UK provided for moving a reference against Altaf if investigations establish an offence on the ground of evidence. He said a separate reference for every alleged offence will need to be made through Pakistan High Commission which in turn can move police or the court under the UK law.