LONDON: Senior Pakistani journalist Muhammad Sarwar has been arrested by the Metropolitan Police on sexual assault charges after a woman believed to be of Pakistani origin registered a complaint at an East London Police station.
Sarwar, chief editor of weekly newspaper The Nation and Kashmir News, was arrested from outside the Lee Bridge Road mosque, administration of the mosque confirmed.
In a statement, Scotland Yard said: “On 29th of December, police in Waltham Forest arrested a 56-year-old man on sexual assault charges. He was arrested because a female made allegations of sexual assault. The man is in custody at an East London police station. We will investigate this serious matter.”
More than 200 people had gathered in the Ghausia Mosque on Lee Bridge Road for the chehlum of Liberal Democrat Councillor Farooq Qureshi’s wife when two policemen approached the mosque administration and told them that they were looking for a person named ‘Sarwar’.
The mosque then made a public announcement that the police was looking for some “Sarwar” and that whosoever he is should cooperate with the police. The mosque administration feared that the police may enter the mosque to force their warrant. A member of the mosque administration told this newspaper: “After the announcement was made three people left the mosque hall, presumably all of them shared the name Sarwar but we saw that it was M. Sarwar of The Nation who was taken away by the police. It is only an allegation as far as we are aware.”
“The police were respectful and didn’t enter the mosque. They arrested M. Sarwar from the pavement outside after telling him what the allegations against him were. Everyone at the mosque was shocked as what had happened. We thought it was some kind of allegation relating to fight or altercation but the charge of sexual assault is very serious and when we heard the news about the charge we were all very shocked. We don’t know what the facts of this case are. It’s unfortunate what happened,” said a mosque committee member, who requested his name not be published.
According to details, a van carrying around six police officers arrived outside the offices of Sarwar’s The Nation newspaper at around 7PM on Saturday. The officers who were carrying equipment which is used for cases of sexual nature – including rape, harassment, assault – stood outside for a couple of minutes. Eye-witness described that the police officers were carrying “enforcers” with them, which are used to break the doors, shutters and walls.
It is not clear whether the police was able to get inside after breaking the doors down but its indisputable that the police was able to gain entry as they were seen leaving and entering the offices of M. Sarwar. On Sunday, a police van remained parked outside The Nation office on Ilford Lane for most part of the day. No policemen were seen in the van or around it but it is understood that the police were searching the office of the Nation.
The police made their way to the Ghousia Mosque after failing to find M. Sarwar at his newspaper address. It is understood that someone from within the Pakistani community was updating the police about the whereabouts of M. Sarwar and must have guided the police to the mosque.
On Sunday evening, the police said that they had shifted M. Sarwar to a hospital in east London because he was suffering from ‘high blood pressure’. But the police confirmed that he was in hospital under the police custody. “He is still detained and in the police custody. He will be brought back to the police station when he is in a normal state.”