Imran Khan's message to UK: 'My life is in danger'

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The Independent Online

Imran Khan, the Pakistani opposition leader and former cricketer, was arrested yesterday, less than 48 hours after sending a desperate text message to his solicitor saying that he feared for his life.

Mr Khan had emerged after 11 days in hiding, having gone on the run to escape arrest in the aftermath of General Musharraf's declaration of emergency on 3 November. Until he was detained by police yesterday lunchtime, he was the last major political opponent of the general still not arrested or under detention. He was charged under Pakistan's Anti-Terrorism Act, which includes penalties that can carry the death sentence or life imprisonment.

However, Mr Khan had earlier expressed his grave concern for his security in a text message sent to his lawyer in the UK, in which he warned that failure by British authorities to prosecute a key London-based ally of General Musharraf, Altaf Hussain, could lead to lethal repercussions. His message to his lawyer, also named Imran Khan, suggested another possible cause for his arrest.

Mr Hussain, the leader of the MQM party, has been accused of a range of criminal acts, including soliciting murder and inciting violence. A dossier compiled by Mr Khan, the London solicitor and human rights campaigner, on behalf of his namesake has been handed over to Scotland Yard and an investigation is now under way into allegations of money laundering.

In the text message, seen by The Independent, Imran Khan says: "Once MQM [Mr Hussain] thinks he is safe then my Karachi workers and my own life will be at great risk."

Members of the MQM are said to work alongside the security forces and friends and colleagues of Mr Khan the politician say they fear for his safety because of his campaign against Altaf Hussain.

Mr Khan travelled to London in the summer to press for the prosecution of Altaf Hussain under the UK's anti-terror laws after gunmen opened fire on supporters of Pakistan's sacked Chief Justice, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, sparking a day of violence in May in which 42 people were killed.

Members of the security forces are said to have stood by allowing MQM members to open fire. Mr Khan – along with opposition parties, lawyers, and human rights activists and journalists – accused Mr Hussain of orchestrating the violence from London. The MQM denied the accusations. Mr Hussain claimed at the time "it was a completely peaceful gathering by MQM supporters that was targeted by a collaboration of three other parties".

Mr Hussain, 53, left Pakistan for Britain in 1992 after an arrest warrant was issued in connection with a murder. The chief justice is reported to have said that he would pursue the murder charge against Mr Hussain if he ever returned to Pakistan.

Following General Musharraf's announcement that the state of emergency would not be lifted prior to elections being held, Mr Hussain said in a statement from his offices in north-west London that all parties "should support the present government and President General Pervez Musharraf so that the emergency can be lifted, constitution could be restored and elections could be held on schedule. I pay tributes to President General Pervez Musharraf on making courageous and positive announcements."

Just before his arrest, Imran Khan criticised British authorities for being slow in investigating Mr Hussain and maintained this may have been due to government interference. The Independent revealed that the British Government had liaised with Mr Hussain in an attempt to ensure the safety of Benazir Bhutto when she returned to Pakistan from exile to take part in elections which the general says will proceed on schedule in January, but under the state of emergency.

In a statement he said: "My legal team presented evidence to Scotland Yard in September 2007 regarding Altaf Hussain's criminal activities ... I am very disappointed that over six weeks have gone by and although my lawyers have been keeping in contact with Scotland Yard, a decision has still not been arrived at...

"I sincerely hope that the British government does not unduly influence Scotland yard ... Altaf Hussain happens to be someone that President Musharraf regards as an ally in his dictatorship in Pakistan."

Imran Khan, the solicitor, said: "There is genuine worry about the safety of my client and he is in real fear. The MQM people knows of his campaign and the information which has been passed on to the police and we know that MQM are allies of General Musharraf ... Failure to prosecute Altaf Hussain means that MQM members in Pakistan will think that he is untouchable and that will give them more confidence to act against their opponents like Imran Khan and other opposition leaders."

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