A man in London is scheduled to appear in court on Monday to face trial on charges of plotting to assassinate prominent Pakistani blogger Waqas Ahmad Goraya, who is a known critique of the country’s military, authorities in the United Kingdom have told News18.
Goraya, who now lives in exile in Netherlands, was allegedly kidnapped and tortured by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate in 2017, along with four other prominent activists critical of human rights abuses by the Pakistan Army.
“A man has been charged with conspiracy to murder following an investigation by the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command”, an official spokesperson told News18.
The man, the police statement said, had been identified as Mohammad Gohir Khan, a resident of the Forest Gate neighbourhood of east London.
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The trial comes on the back of the deaths of two exiled Pakistani dissidents — Karima Baloch and Sajid Husain Baloch — which investigators claim were suicides, but activists suspect murder.
Prominent scholar Ayesha Siddiqa and journalist Taha Siddiqui, who are among the many Pakistanis living in exile for being critical of its Army, too, have been warned of similar death threats by intelligence services.
Earlier, in 2018, the police in the United Kingdom had issued notice to London-based scholar Ayesha Siddiqa—the author of an authoritative scholarly work on the Pakistan Army’s controversial business and property holdings—that they had information of a threat to her life if she returned to her homeland.
Khan was produced before the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on June 19, where he was remanded in custody to appear at London’s Central Criminal Court, known as the Old Bailey, on July 19.
London-based police sources said Khan is expected to enter a guilty plea. Although the police believe that Khan agreed to conduct Goraya’s assassination in return for a cash payment, officials declined to discuss who offered the payment.
Few details are available on Khan’s background, sources familiar with the case told News18, other than that he migrated to the United Kingdom after finishing his school education in Lahore. Later, Khan acquired citizenship of that country through marriage.
The alleged assassin is believed to own a number of businesses—mainly in the cargo sector—one of which, public records show, was declared bankrupt in February this year.
In the same month, sources said, police in Netherlands moved Goraya, and his immediate family, into a safe-house based what they believed to be credible information of a threat to his life. The intelligence, the sources said, emerged from a surveillance operation targeting a transborder narcotics syndicate believed to be running drugs into the port of Rotterdam.
Following the removal of the Goraya family to the safehouse, a source said, at least one individual linked to the assassination plot visited Holland, and attempted to locate their target.
Last year, Goraya told the Dutch police that he was attacked by a man who appeared to be ethnic-Pasthun, who threatened to kill him, and warned that he knew where his family lived. No arrests were made on that occasion.
Goraya did not immediately respond to a request for comment. This story will be updated with his response when it becomes available.
Federal Bureau of Investigations officials in the United States, official sources said, had also issued warnings to several journalists and activists based in France, Australia and Canada at around the same time.
“The ISI’s seems to attempting to spread fear among Pakistani dissidents in exile, who are challenging the military’s chokehold over political life in our homeland”, one of the activists said.
“We will not be cowed”, he added. “We were not silenced by torture and death threats at home, and will continue to speak out”.