Musharraf’s second public event in London cancelled within a week

Dispute with organiser, disruption by pro-democracy activists reportedly led to cancellation

By
Murtaza Ali Shah
|
Wadood Mushtaq

LONDON: Former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) cancelled a public meeting here on Sunday after the party got itself into a bitter dispute with the rally’s organiser as well as over fears the event could be disrupted by pro-democracy activists.

The meeting was scheduled for Sunday in Slough and public invitations were issued but on the same day the Pakistan Solidarity Campaign held a protest against the APML leader outside 10 Downing Street and handed over a letter to Prime Minister Theresa May’s office.

The event, organised by APML in association with Zam Zam Education centre in Slough, was cancelled just a week after Musharraf’s talk at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) was cancelled after Pakistani activists started a campaign against the former military ruler’s appearance forcing the university to announce that it had been misled and was not informed about the nature of the event.

In a public fallout, Pir Ali Pasha of Zam Zam Education Centre said Musharraf will come to the hall and chair the public meeting and answer questions of participants. He announced that Musharraf was his friend and had asked him to organise the event. 

After Musharraf’s SOAS appearance was cancelled, the APML said Musharraf will only make a “telephonic address” at Pir Pasha’s centre and that he [Pasha] was using the occasion to drum up his own publicity.

In a statement, APML UK chief Tebraiz Aurah said Musharraf’s Sunday event was “postponed due to extraordinary public interest in Musharraf’s jalsa”. He added that a new date and time for the event will be announced.

However, an APML official said less than twenty party activists from across the UK agreed to attend the meeting but it turned out that dozens of activists opposed to Musharraf were set to attend the meeting to disrupt Musharraf’s speech.

Pasha said the number of participants were increased to “an unbearable level”. He claimed that thousands of people had registered to attend the event but he did not have proof to back up his claim.

“Under such circumstance, we cannot take any risk of any mischiefs or security risk. The chances of distress and disruption were increased that’s why we had left no option but to cancel the public meeting,” Pasha said further.

However, Aurah said Pasha had “committed clear violence by using old pictures with Musharraf” and “will face legal consequences.”

Meanwhile, activists gathered outside 10 Downing Street and raised slogans against Musharraf and called on both the Pakistani and British government to take action against him.

A letter delivered to May said Musharraf had a “long history of well-documented crimes against law and people of Pakistan; it is unfathomable how Musharaf is roaming freely in UK”.

They said that Britain was inadvertently endorsing the “wrong values which are inconsistent with British values of free-speech, democracy, rule of law and respect of human life”.

They called on the government to ban Musharraf’s entry to the UK “till he returns Pakistan and faces the [courts]”.

Separately, it has emerged that some officials of the University of London’s Pakistan Society were fully involved in organising the event at SOAS last week.

Mahek Tariq, a senior member of the society, promoted the event and invited people to attend but other office-bearers of the society have distanced themselves from APML.