Abid Hussain is the relative and onetime business partner of Lady Warsi and has appeared at several of the same events in recent years.
For example he accompanied her in opposition in August 2008 to meet the Pakistani prime minister, Yousaf Raza Gilani, in private talks at the national assembly in Islamabad. More recently – since the general election – Abid Hussain was present at a meeting with Nawaz Sharif (former prime minister of Pakistan) which Lady Warsi attended.
He was also invited to attend and compere a reception and dinner for over 100 people hosted by the British-Pakistani diaspora in honour of Shahbaz Sharif (chief minister of the Punjab province of Pakistan) at which Lady Warsi was also a guest. Separately, Mr Hussain also attended a gathering at Mr (Nawaz) Sharif’s London home in May 2010.
The Conservative party says:
“Abid Hussain is not a member of Baroness Warsi’s staff, representative of the Conservative party or a part of any official delegation. Any meetings held by Abid Hussain in an individual capacity are not controlled or sanctioned by Baroness Warsi in any manner…Neither Baroness Warsi nor the Conservative Party nor the Government has ever met the costs of foreign visits by Abid Hussain.”
Warsi and Hussain – cousin of her husband – had “a common business interest” as minority shareholders in a small food company, Rupert’s Recipes.
David Cameron has asked his adviser on ministerial interests, Sir Alex Allan, to examine whether Warsi should have declared this relationship before the pair appeared at the same event during a government trip to Pakistan in 2010.
The Sunday Telegraph alleged two weeks ago that Hussain had been active in the controversial group Hizb-ut-Tahrir. Last week I spoke to a former member of the Islamic group who confirmed Hussain had attended meetings. Mr Cameron in opposition had vowed to ban Hizb-ut-Tahrir – although that has not occurred.
Last week I contacted the Warsi camp to ask about the H-u-T link and also tried to contact Hussein via his phone, his email and his employers at Tower Hamlets council.
At that point Warsi’s spokeswoman said:
“Baroness Warsi is not aware of any involvement between Abid Hussain and Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an allegation which is firmly denied by Abid Hussain.”
The allegation in the Sunday Telegraph had indeed been denied categorically. Hussain never replied directly to the FT. But we were forwarded by one of Warsi’s aides a statement from Hussain’s email account on June 2 saying:
“I am unavailable to speak on the phone. I understand that a newspaper is proposing to run an article on me alleging that I am a member of a group called Hizb But Tahrir. I am not and have never been a member of this group and if you allege the same in any article and in doing so suggest , infer or imply that this reflects on my character , beliefs or views then I am putting you on notice that I will be instructing solicitors to start legal proceedings against you.”
In the intervening days that position has been clarified. Law firm Bindmans, representing Abid Hussain, responded to the Sunday Telegraph before last weekend (it ran a second article about Hussain) to admit that he had attended meetings of the group after all.
It has taken a while for Bindmans to tell us this in writing as well; the email came through this morning.
“I can now confirm to you (as I did to the ST) that in his mid 20s (which is to say more than 20 years ago) Mr Hussain attended Hizb ut Tahrir meetings.”