By Samia Khan
ISLAMABAD/LONDON: The chairman of the Baloch National Party (BNP) Akhtar Mengal has told the National Assembly that Prime Minister Imran Khan had supported Baloch Liberation Army leader Hyrbyair Marri in London’s courts in the terrorism trial that the British government started on request of Pakistan’s military.
Mengal told the parliament: “When a case was going on against Hyrbyair Marri in the courts of the UK for terrorism and the independence of Baluchistan, there was a witness who appeared on video link to argue the innocence of Marri. Do you know who it was? The current Prime Minister, Imran Khan.”
Asked by Marri and Baloch’s defence counsel, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, whether the people of Balochistan had “other avenues” besides the military to “assert the will of the people”, Imran Khan told the Woolwich Crown Court: “Absolutely not. In Balochistan there was military action going on, [so] there was no way of redressing the people’s grievances.”
Imran Khan, appearing in court in January 2009, told that Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baloch were branded terrorists after attempting to highlight the “brute violence, death and destruction” being meted out to Baloch people by the military.
When asked by Helena Kennedy QC, Imran Khan had told the court that he too would’ have been “willing to use violence against the Pakistan government if he had been from the country’s poorest province of Baluchistan where the army had killed and kidnapped citizens, made 75,000 homeless, rigged elections and controlled the courts”.
Imran Khan told the Woolwich Crown Court that the Pakistani military only understood military means and claimed that the army had committed human rights abuses in Baluchistan against the Baloch people.
Appearing before the Woolwich Crown Court for Faiz Balochi and Hyrbyair Marri, Imran Khan told the court he supported the right for people to take up arms against their government if there was no longer any other democratic alternative for them to pursue. Imran Khan said it was a lie by Pakistan’s military that Faizi Baloch (also known as Faiz Balochi) and Hyrbyair Marri were involved in violence or sponsored terrorism.
Hyrbyair Marri and his co-defendant were on trial at Woolwich Crown Court accused of gathering information to help the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), which is proscribed in Britain, and inciting murder in Pakistan via websites from their homes in London.
Mengal told the parliament that the statements of PM Imran Khan were not given to a Pakistani news channel or media outlet which could be edited due to pressure from the security establishment.
“If Imran Khan can talk about the independence of Balochistan in the context of the grievances of the people there, then we should also ignore the slip of tongue of Owais Noorani: “Mengal had said referring to the slip of the tongue of Shah Owais Noorani who had demanded an independent Balochistan in Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) Quetta Jalsa.
The Express newspaper in the UK reported that Khan said: “To defend the rights of my people… I think if I had no access to getting into parliament because most of the elections are heavily rigged there.
“If I had no way of expressing my grievances or this injustice where… most of my people are below the poverty line, how else would I express myself?”, Khan had said.
Faiz Baluch and Hyrbyair Marri had been charged with inciting another person to commit acts of terrorism “wholly or partly outside the UK”.
The duo had been arrested in the UK shortly after Pervez Musharraf, the then military dictator of Pakistan demanded their arrests in a visit to London. They were subsequently presented before City of Westminster Magistrates Court.
It is believed that Pakistan’s premier intelligence agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) presented a dossier of evidence which carried allegations of illegal activities of Marri and Baluch.
Marri’s supporters believed that there was a secret deal between Pakistan and the UK in which Musharraf had promised to send Rashid Rauf, a suspected terrorist who allegedly planned terrorist attacks on planes in the UK.
The UK government had been unable to arrest Rauf since he had fled to Pakistan. It was believed by Marri’s supporters that he was arrested and tried due to this understanding between Pakistan and the UK.
Musharraf had held a press conference with the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown and declared Marri to be involved in terrorist activities. Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baloch were acquitted of terrorism charges on 11 February 2009 at Woolwich Crown Court in London.
Faiz Baluch was acquitted of all charges. Mr Marri was acquitted of three charges, with the jury unable to come to a verdict on the other two charges.
The BLA has been designated as a terrorist organisation in Pakistan.