The UK's counter terrorism police warned the Pakistani dissidents who are living in exile in Britain of death threats and asked them to keep a low profile, according to a report published in The Guardian.
Counter Terrorism Policing — a collaboration of UK police forces and the security services — informed possible targets that they need to inform police if they intend to travel within the UK, read the report.
The heightened alert was issued following the conclusion of a trial in which Muhammad Gohir Khan, a 31-year-old British man of Pakistani descent, was found guilty of conspiring to murder Ahmed Waqass Goraya, a Pakistani dissident living in Netherlands. Gohir Khan was offered £100,000 for the hit.
The police officers uncovered more than 2,000 WhatsApp messages between Khan and his co-conspirator where they discussed and agreed to the contract killing of the Rotterdam-based Pakistani blogger and activist, according to a report published on the Metropolitan police website.
Khan, a former east London businessman, will be sentenced on March 11.
However, according to the UK publication's report, the mysterious middleman behind the plot – who was identified as Muzzamil – remains at large, with the Metropolitan police confirming they were still attempting to establish his identity and whereabouts. The police did not comment on whether they are liaising with the Pakistani authorities to locate him.
Officers have also issued a plea to the public for information on Muzzamil, who speaks with a British accent.
In one of the voice messages heard during the trial, Muzamil can be heard saying to Khan that future “jobs” in the UK and Europe would follow after killing Goraya.
Ahead of the trial last month, Counter Terrorism Policing officers visited Rashid Murad, a Pakistani political commentator living in UK, home to review his security.
The police have already installed a panic alarm and CCTV at his home and shared guidance on personal security from the national counter-terrorism security office, read the report.
“Two police officers visited my home in 2021, informed me that they had intercepted a communication in which it was revealed that some people were planning to harm me. They didn’t tell me who but indicated they were from the Pakistani authorities,” quoted Murad in the report.
The British authorities have also approached his brother, based in Manchester, and informed him of a potential threat.
Another Pakistani, lawyer Fazal Khan, was also sent an alert and asked to notify UK police forces if he intended to travel outside the capital.
“In the UK, a severe threat exists. London, Birmingham and cities like Sheffield with big Asian communities and where they [the Pakistani authorities] have people on their payroll. I was asked not to move around, not to leave the city and provide the police details of my contacts,” quoted Khan in the report.
In July 2020, Khan survived an assassination attempt in Pakistan.
Ayesha Siddiqa, a Pakistani political scientist and commentator based in London, has also been warned of threats to her life. A well-connected lawyer had told her that the method used to target her would involve British-based Pakistani drug gangs. “That sense of being secure is gone,” she was quoted saying in the report.
Siddiqa urged the UK government to pressure Pakistan to identify the person named in Khan’s trial who was referred to as the “boss” behind the Goraya's murder plot.
A Pashtun rights campaigner, Zar Ali Khan Afridi, fled to the Netherlands after an abduction attempt. He revealed he had received a threatening call from a British number. “The best thing about moving to Europe was that I thought I would be safe. Now there is always the fear of being attacked, killed or harmed,” Afridi was quoted saying in the report.
The threats to Pakistani dissidents also extended to France where journalist Yunas Khan received an email in December from the French authorities, informing him of leaked audio files in which a figure from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf tells the Pakistani community in Europe to attack Khan.
“It is a matter of Pakistan’s honour. Go and make him accountable if you are legitimate sons of your parents,” says the man on the recording.
The federal government rejected the allegations levelled against it, saying "targeting its critics through hitmen in foreign countries is nothing but absolute lies and sheer absurdity.
“Those who are baselessly defaming and spreading propaganda against Pakistan military and intelligence agencies are doing it to accomplish either their own ulterior motives or that of their sponsors,” read the report
Talking about Khan's trial, the Pakistani authorities were quoted as saying, “propagandists further amplified the smear campaign against Pakistan military and intelligence agencies without due regard for the law of the land by passing absurd judgments and initiating reckless propaganda over social and mainstream media on a matter that was subjudice”. It said the court had found Khan guilty “in his personal capacity”.