Petition seeks release of London barrister ‘unlawfully detained’ in Pakistan ahead of elections

Senior UK lawyers call on Bar Council to make public statement in support of missing opposition candidate
London, UK - May 21 2023: British Pakistanis gathering in Parliament Square in London protested to support Former Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan.

A London protest in support of Imran Khan who was arrested in May 2023 on corruption charges and jailed in August Shutterstock; Angus Lei

The Bar Council of England and Wales has been asked to intervene in a case involving a London-based barrister due to stand as an opposition candidate in the Pakistan general election amid claims he has been unlawfully detained.  

According to his family and supporters, Abdullah Mumtaz Kahloon, a tenant at London’s Legis Chambers, disappeared shortly after his arrival at Islamabad last week to stand for jailed former prime minister Imran Khan’s opposition PTI party at next month’s general election. 

A petition backed by general counsel, solicitors and academics, and circulated on LinkedIn, asks the Bar Council to issue “a public statement of concern… calling for those holding him unlawfully to disclose his whereabouts and condition and respect his human rights”.

English-language Pakistani newspaper, The News International, reported on 10 January that the Chief Justice of the High Court of Islamabad, Aamer Farooq, had “reprimanded” the authorities over the affair and ordered them to produce Kahloon after he failed to appear at a protective bail hearing. 

Additional Attorney General Munawar Iqbal Duggal had told the court Kahloon could be seen on CCTV cameras leaving the airport for “an unknown location with three to four persons without resisting them”, The News International reported. Kahloon later appeared in a video on social media, saying he had now disassociated himself from the PTI and was “staying with a friend”.

Nicholas Wolfe, an assistant general counsel at solar and renewable energy specialist hep global, wrote on LinkedIn: “We are calling on the professional body responsible for Abdullah to extend all the support it can to him and his family at this difficult time and – at the request of his family – to make a public statement of concern, calling for transparency over his location and condition and respect for his human rights.”

Kahloon has a general common law practice, having also worked as a County Court advocate for various solicitors’ firms in Greater London before pupillage and tenancy at his set, where he has been based for seven years.

The petition calling for his release was shared by fellow alumni at Cardiff University and leading legal academic Professor Richard Moorhead, professor of law and professional ethics at Exeter University.

Matthew Brown, a partner at BVI firm Conyers, wrote in a personal capacity: “The abduction is a flagrant breach of an existing Pakistani court order obtained in advance by the opposition to prevent this very same thing from happening.”

Charlotte Hill, a partner at Pennington Manches Cooper and council member at the Law Society, also expressing her personal view, said: “I ask that he is given all of the support required to facilitate his release, so please sign the petition to encourage this. This is not a political statement but about an individual’s right to freedom and basic human rights.”

Moorhead echoed such calls: “Abdullah was one of my students at Cardiff University on the LLM course, where he was president of the University Law Society. I am concerned to hear about his detention, and I hope the Bar Council will investigate this promptly, along with consular support from UK government officials.”

The Bar Council declined to comment. 

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