Daily News (Pakistan) : ‘Do More’ mantra

Friday, April 24, 2009

‘Do More’ mantra

Khalid Khokhar | April 24, 2009

THE linking of most recently alleged terrorist plot with Pakistan unearthed in UK, is the manifestation of old-aged archetypal apprehension that “the imprints of every major act of international terrorism invariably passes through Pakistan”. The westerners believe that virtually all the participants of 9/11 tragedy had been trained, resided or met in, coordinated with, or received funding from or through Pakistani seminaries called as “Madaris”. The spat started with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown accusing Pakistan of not doing enough to control terrorist acts. The Britain police arrested 11 Pakistani-born nationals on student visas in UK on the alleged planning to attack shopping centres and a nightclub in Manchester. However, after the examination of computers recovered from raids in Manchester, Liverpool and Clithere and their hard drives, MI6 cautiously admitted that there is no evidence of ‘Pakistan connection’ with the actual plot, thus causing a deepening sense of embarrassment to the worthy PM of a most technologically advanced country. It forced the Britain police to deport the arrested Pakistanis rather than charging them in a court. The father of one accused (Abid Naseer) in the alleged plot, attributed the charges to Western Islamophobia, saying his only crime is to have a beard and pray five times a day. As perceived by many in Britain and other Western countries, youth having long and untrimmed beards are viewed with suspicion as potential terrorists and extremists. To be sure, such labialization is unfair and uncalled for.

In 2005, Pakistani seminaries came under severe scrutiny when possible links of these religious Madaris have been alleged in 7/7 London bombings. During the course of investigation, it was revealed that at least two of the bombers had visited Pakistan in the months before the attacks. In the aftermath of the deadly attacks, the then, British Prime Minister Tony Blair called on Pakistan to crack down on extremist madrassas. There are lots of attack threats and signals rumbling all round the western circles from time to time. Again in 2009, Pakistan has been accused of not doing enough, whereas it is doing enough despite limited resources. What is the myth of al Qaeda “sleeper cells” in European countries? Are these alarms emanating from jihadist propaganda videos, coded message to al Qaeda cells, or just hoax? The Government is well set on its course to ascribe a more meaningful role to the madrassas and developing the madrassa students congruent to cultural norms of Pakistani society. After reviewing the veracity of these alarms, one is left with many unanswered questions. A global dragnet has tightened around al-Qaida, made possible by a broad coalition of 84 nations, all focused on the common goal of eradicating the terrorist threat that endangers all civilized nations. Since September 11, 2001, 70 percent of al-Qaeda senior leadership and more than 3,400 lower-level al-Qaeda operatives have been detained or killed in over 100 countries. The al-Qaeda organization has been gravely wounded and is on the run. Pakistan has deployed up to 120,000 military and paramilitary forces in FATA and killed/captured hundreds of suspected al Qaeda operatives. Pakistan has made “significant” progress toward eliminating the safe haven for foreign fighters in the FATA over the past seven and a half years, capturing scores of key leaders. Pakistan, being the frontline state in the war on terror, is committed to weed out terrorism of all sorts from its soil. The objective was to deny a safe haven to al Qaeda and Taliban elements inside Pakistan. Despite substantial sacrifices rendered by Pakistan, still US counter-Terrorism department believes that “Washington rarely gets all of the help it wants from allies like Pakistan in efforts to hunt down violent extremists”.

In assessing al Qaeda and its cohort’s capabilities, many believe that US counter efforts have weakened al Qaeda’s central leadership structure and capabilities to the point where al Qaeda can not coordinate attack of 9/11 magnitude. Therefore, counter-efforts should focus more intently on homeland security, stressing such measures as improving airline security, establishing enhanced security measures for passenger train travel, and expanding security of western ports. The Britain’s Terrorism Act-2000, which authorizes indefinite detentions of immigrants; search a home or business without the owner’s or the occupant’s permission or knowledge; allows to search telephone, email and financial records without a court order; and the expanded access of law enforcement agencies to business records, can auger well with the objective of combating the scourge of terrorism. However, the Britain’s student visa system has some bugs. It is appropriate to mention here that more than 2,100 universities, independent schools and colleges normally apply to accept international students. Each institution was supposed to be assessed or visited by UK Border Agency officers as part of the vetting process. Foreign students bring with them 10 billion pound boast to the economy which the Government is keen to encourage. This leads to soft visa policy and thousands of bogus students were free to enter Britain despite new laws aimed at tightening controls on immigration. The British government issues around 10,000 student visas a year to Pakistanis, and over 50, 000 Pakistani students are presently in Britain, ostensibly studying. It was revealed that hundreds of colleges approved by the Home Office to accept nonEuropean Union (EU) students have not been inspected by it’s officers. It has also emerged that the vast majority of non-EU students would not be interviewed by the Home Office but admitted on the basis of written applications and evidence of sponsorship, educational qualifications and bank statements. They then register at the college or university that originally gave them admissions to enable them to apply for visas. However, the reality is that in a large number of cases, these institutions are little more than fronts that function only to make money from these young men and women who are seeking jobs for a better life in Britain. Another reason may be that the Europeans allow “rogue element” to seek shelter in foreign countries on the pretext of “political asylum”. The European countries, being the staunchest ally in the US-led war on terror, are unwittingly protecting and harbouring such dangerous terrorists wanted in many terrorist acts in Pakistan. Today, the continuation of militancy is a devastating outcome of western’s “human rights” policies.

The International terrorism, no matter when, by whom, where, and in what form, is a dangerous threat to the world peace. This requires mutual cooperation from all peace-loving countries. Every country should adopt “uniform strategy” in condemning and fighting terrorism resolutely. Since 2005, UK took into account how terrorism in Pakistan may affect Britain and its Muslim population. The British Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command arrested some UK nationals of Pakistani origin on the charges of “commissioning, preparing or instigating acts of terrorism”. Consequently, most of the terrorist organizations closed their offices in UK and fled away to some soft destinations, like Sweden, Italy, Norway, etc. Now, there is a strong need to take appropriate programmes and initiatives to reach out to people/organizations harbouring terrorism. All the foreign-based organizations should be taken to the task by the counterterrorism authorities of the respective country. All the websites operating in western countries responsible for fanning extremist sentiments should also be banned. The western democracies have to set aside their soft policy and should be more aggressive to conduct covert operations against masquerade terrorists exploiting the western doctrine on human rights to their benefit. International terrorism has jolted the whole world which is faceless and has no territory and is fighting its own war against terror. Pakistan itself has suffered from terrorism. Pakistan condemns terrorism in its all forms and manifestations. The public blame game only sours relations. The UK officials are equally irritated by High Commission’s statement as Islamabad is not happy with the statement of Prime Minister Gordon Brown because despite providing full co-operation in the war against terrorism, his attitude was not fair. Nevertheless, it calls for collective efforts by the international community against terrorism, instead of seeking scapegoats and blaming each other. UK and Pakistan should not worry about who is to blame, and more about how to rectify the emergent problem.

UPI : Britain's terror cop to review April raids

Friday, April 24, 2009

Britain's terror cop to review April raids

April 24, 2009

LONDON, April 24 (UPI) -- Britain's terror watchdog will review the police operation that resulted in the arrest and subsequent release of 11 Pakistani nationals and a British Muslim.

Lord Carlile, the man who keeps watch over Britain's terror legislation, said he decided to review the raids that took place across Liverpool and the Northwest earlier this month, the Liverpool Echo reported Friday. Carlile said the review was part of his continuing oversight of terrorism laws and how they are applied, the Guardian Web site said.

"I do not believe a mistake was made," said Peter Fahy, chief constable for Greater Manchester, in the Guardian. "We were faced with a very difficult decision."

Eleven of the 12 men police arrested were in Britain on student visas and have been turned over to immigration officials for deportation.

The 12th suspect, Hamza Shenwari, 41, is a British national believed to be a member of an Islamic group called Tablighi Jamaal that is accused of radicalizing young Muslims.

Carlile says he will review the raids that were coordinated by counter terrorist officers from Manchester, London and MI5, the Guardian reported.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

APP : MCB writes to Lord Carlile on Pak students issue

Friday, April 24, 2009

MCB writes to Lord Carlile on Pak students issue

April 24, 2009

LONDON, April 24 (APP)-The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has written to Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of counter terrorism legislation, commending his initiative to launch an inquiry into “Operation Pathway” that led to the arrest of 12 persons including 11 Pakistani students on terror suspicion and their subsequent release without charge.

“The resentment and anger caused by this particular case of 12 innocent men’s detention and trial by media should not be underestimated, but the [MCB] is particularly concerned that this is not an isolated case and incidents damaging to community relations are being repeated, with the lessons not being learned,” MCB Secretary-General Dr. Abdul Bari noted.

“While the media coverage may bring kudos in high circles, it is Muslims in Britain who bear the consequences. It is they who are emerging as the “suspect community” and who are viewed with suspicion by their neighbours. The reports are exploited by the extreme right wing and fascists. Each time there are tabloid headlines demonising Muslims, verbal and physical attacks follow. There is a real human price being paid”, said Dr. Bari.

In the letter, the MCB also urges Lord Carlile to critique the “intelligence gathering” aspects of counter-terrorism. Operation Pathway, it is believed, involved members of the public who had “undergone a crash course in surveillance techniques.”

Affiliates of the MCB have confirmed the climate of snooping. Are not the authorities mindful of the breakdown of trust and the impact on matters of ordinary civil policing? Dr. Bari asked.

He expressed hope that this inquiry would analyse the flawed nature of recent anti-terrorism legislation, such as the reduction in the burden of proof and the provision for blanket stop and search powers.

“Much rests on Lord Carlile to bring back our law enforcement agencies back into line, restore public confidence as a matter of urgency, and ensure that the lessons are being taken on board,” said the MCB official.

Independent : Matthew Norman: Another police fiasco to divert attention from the last one

Friday, April 24, 2009

Matthew Norman: Another police fiasco to divert attention from the last one

What is unforgivable is that the Pakistanis haven't been released but held for deporting

April 24, 2009

Seldom since September 11 2001 has there been a better day than Wednesday for the burial of bad news. With the Chancellor borrowing from compatriot Private Frazer, an undertaker himself, to tell us we're all doomed (I paraphrase the Budget very slightly), the announcement that a huge meteor was on course to disrupt the London Marathon on Sunday would have passed by barely noticed.

If Jacqui Smith had coughed to claiming £120,000 for being impregnated with a foetus cloned from Osama bin Laden in a Torinese clinic, it would have been lost. Had it emerged that Gordon Brown has signed up for a sex change, followed by extensive cosmetic surgery and the loss of his legs below the knee, in the cause of becoming a Susan Boyle tribute act (the only way, according to leading pundits, he could win an election), it might have made a two-paragraph brief on page 27.

Consider yourselves forgiven, then, if the trumpets of the Four Horsemen of the Fiscal Apocalypse drowned out the noise of a less sensational news cadaver being lowered into the ground with half the ceremony lavished on Eleanor Rigby... the very bad, if unstartling, news that the British police have contrived another colossal fiasco.

As it proudly takes its place on the honours board of terrorist-related policing calamity, alongside the "Ricin plot" sans Ricin, the "airline bomb plot" involving no airliners, the "London Underground cyanide plot" devoid of cyanide and aimed at no Tube trains, and the shooting of an innocent Muslim in east London technically known as Forest GateGate, please give a warm, Independent readers' welcome to the "Easter bomb plot" with nothing to do with Easter and not the hint of an explosive.

The special appeal about this one is its exquisite symmetry. The arrests of a dozen Muslim men, 11 Pakistanis here on student visas and a lone British national, were rushed through on 9 April in the wake of former Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick's little faux pas with that top secret folder as he strode manfully towards Number 10.

Given that all 12 have now been released without charge, we ask ourselves why Mr Quick was in Downing Street at all. And the odds-on 2-9 favourite, we answer, is that the Government and Scotland Yard were desperate to flam up a "police triumph" story to divert outrage from the possible manslaughter of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protest.

And a triumph, for a while at least, it was. Gordon was thrilled to bits by Operation Pathway, lauding the police for foiling what he assured us, with neo-Blunkettian contempt for the basic precepts of natural justice, was a "very big terrorist plot". So big, it transpires, that the police and security services, these brethren defenders of life and liberty now engaged in a ferocious game of buck-passing, had amassed zero evidence. Houses, cars and computers were searched, and not a carrot found.

Apparently there'd been a tip-off from our spooks in Pakistan, which is nice, although ever since MI6 failed to predict the collapse of Soviet Communism, common sense suggests their intelligence be handled with giant tongs. One person's common sense is another's venal cynicism, of course, and the security world's faith in its own competence does credit to its trusting nature, if only towards itself.

Now although we cannot be certain that these men were harmless, their release after less than a fortnight, when the law now allows suspects to be held for 28 days, entitles us to make the presumption; just as we may assume that they were arrested, despite being under 24-hour surveillance that had unearthed no imminent "bomb plot", to remove Mr Tomlinson's death from the front pages; and just as we must suspect that the timing of their release, on the eve of the Budget, was more than coincidence.

The creation of a fresh policing catastrophe in the attempt to divert public fury from a previous one is, as I said, gorgeously symmetrical. If royal protection officers had shot Prince Philip to deflect attention from their failure to keep Michael Fagan out of the Queen's bedroom, that would have done the trick too, but again you'd have wondered whether the game was worth the candle.

Yet however inured we've become to ministers and a frighteningly politicised police force crying wolf (you will recall the pre-election ringing of Heathrow with tanks for no other apparent reason than electoral gain), we cannot become blasé about the blithe vindictiveness that underscores this case.

Bending over backwards to be charitable, one might read the "Easter bomb plot" arrests as nothing more sinister than a loss of nerve... the blind terror, in a risk-averse world, that waiting to collect some evidence could lead to loss of life. It's very easy to be smug, sat behind a computer screen, about the nervous nelliedom of those responsible for keeping us safe. It isn't so easy, in truth, to imagine how men being followed round the clock, their phones and emails perpetually bugged, could hurriedly activate the plot to detonate so much as a stink bomb.

Lord Carlile, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, has promised a "snapshot review" of Operation Pathway, and if he sees fit to publish it perhaps we will learn more about the mechanics of this cock-up. Whatever his findings, however, and without excusing the evidently political nature of the timing or ignoring the damage all this premature incarceration does to relations with a justifiably livid and suspicious Muslim community, one does understand the general temptation to err on the side of caution.

What is utterly unforgivable is that the 11 Pakistanis have been released into not freedom but the unlovely arms of the immigration service, which will seek to deport them on the familiar catch that they are, in some nebulous manner of which they have no legal right to be informed so that they might defend themselves against the charge, a threat to national security. Having tainted them with the McBridean smear that they are would-be killers with his "very big terrorist plot" gibberish, in other words, Gordon Brown means to use their deportation as no-smoke-without-fire cover for a grave mistake in which he was complicit.

If an apology and compensation for their wrongful detention is an outlandish expectation from a government whose paramount concern remains the opinion of right wing tabloids, is it too much to ask that these chaps be spared the persecution they can, having been condemned as terrorists by a British PM, count on back in Pakistan?

Apparently it is. For far too long, idiots like myself have given Gordon Brown the benefit of every doubt, ever qualifying attacks on his abysmal leadership, relentless machine politician bullying and abundant cowardice in the line of fire with the rider that at least he, unlike his predecessor, is at heart a well-intentioned man. The sacrifice of these innocents to spare his blushes makes this a very good day to bury that credulous misjudgment in a concrete-lined coffin, never to be disinterred.