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UK a sanctuary for jihadis

UK a sanctuary for jihadis

Author: B Raman
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: January 21, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/151294/UK-a-sanctuary-for-jihadis.html

It is not surprising that British Foreign Secretary David Miliband should have so crassly sought to provide legitimacy to the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and Pakistani terrorists by linking the Mumbai terror attack to the 'Kashmir issue'. Britain plays host to Islamist terrorists and Labour uses their votes to win elections

There has been considerable anger and indignation in India over the attempt of Mr David Miliband, the British Foreign Secretary, who visited India last week, to rationalise the terrorist attack on Mumbai by the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba of Pakistan by linking the attack to the 'Kashmir issue'. None of the indigenous Kashmiri organisations has linked the Mumbai attack to Jammu & Kashmir. Yet Mr Miliband sought to provide legitimacy to the LeT's terrorist attack by linking it to the 'Kashmir issue', disregarding the fact that the attack, as seen from the brutal murder of nine Jewish and 12 nationals of Western countries, which have contributed forces to the Nato contingent in Afghanistan, was part of the global jihadi agenda unrelated to either Jammu & Kashmir or the grievances of the Indian Muslims.

The shocking attempt by Mr Miliband to play down the murder of 138 Indians and 25 foreign nationals committed by the Pakistani terrorists should not have come as a surprise to those aware of the historic links of the British intelligence with the Mirpuri migrants from Pakistani-occupied Kashmir in the UK and their important role during elections in certain constituencies which traditionally return Labour candidates to the House of Commons with the support of the Mirpuri vote-bank.

After Pakistan and Afghanistan, the UK has been traditionally the largest sanctuary to foreign terrorists and extremists. Everybody, who is somebody in the world of terrorism, has found a rear base in the UK - the Khalistanis in the past, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, the Mirpuris from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, the Chechens, the Al Muhajiroun, the Hizbut Tehrir etc. Having allowed such a medley of terrorists and extremists to operate unchecked from their territory for so long, the British intelligence just does not have a correct estimate of how many sleeper cells are operating from their country and of which organisations.

Since persons of Pakistani origin have been playing an increasingly active role in promoting the activities of Al Qaeda, it is necessary to analyse the nature of migration from Pakistan to the UK and the US. Muslims from Pakistan constitute the single largest Muslim migrant group from the sub-continent in both the UK and the US - followed by Indian and Bangladeshi Muslims. There are estimated to be about 7,00,000 Muslims of Pakistani origin in the UK. No estimate is available in respect of the US.

The largest migrant group from Pakistan in the UK are Punjabi-speaking Muslims - from Pakistani Punjab as well as from the POK. The migrants from the PoK are called Mirpuris. They are not ethnic Kashmiris, but Punjabi-speaking migrants from the Pakistani Punjab, whose families had settled down in the Mirpur area of the PoK for generations. They were essentially small farmers and landless labourers, who lost their livelihood as a result of the construction of the Mangla dam. They, therefore, migrated to West Europe - the largest number to the UK and a smaller number to France, Germany and the Scandinavian countries. Many of them preferred to go to the UK because it already had a large Punjabi-speaking community from Pakistani Punjab. The initial Mirpuri migrants, who hardly spoke English, felt themselves comfortable in a Punjabi-speaking environment.

As the number of Muslims of Pakistani origin in the UK increased, mosques came up to cater to their religious needs. Till 1977, these mosques were headed by clerics from the more tolerant Barelvi Sunni sect. When Gen Zia-ul-Haq, a devout Deobandi, captured power in Pakistan in 1977, he embarked on a policy of marginalising the influence of Barelvi clerics not only in Pakistan, but also in Europe and increasing the influence of the rabid Deobandis. He inducted Deobandis into the Education Department as Arab teachers and into the armed forces to cater to the religious needs of the military personnel. He encouraged and helped the Deobandis to take over the mosques in Pakistan and in the UK by replacing the Barelvis. With the induction of an increasing number of Deobandis started the process of the Arabisation/Wahabisation of the Muslims in Pakistan and of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK.

The intelligence agencies of the US and the UK went along with Zia's policy of Arabising/Wahabising the Muslims of Pakistan because this contributed to an increase in the flow of jihadi terrorists to fight against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan. Till 1983, the members of the Pakistani diaspora in the UK were considered a largely law-abiding people. The first signs of the radicalisation of the diaspora appeared in 1983 when a group of jihadi terrorists kidnapped Ravi Mhatre, an Indian diplomat posted in the Indian Assistant High Commission in Birmingham, and demanded the release of Maqbool Butt, the leader of the Jammu & Kashmir Liberation Front, who was then awaiting execution in the Tihar Jail in Delhi following his conviction on charges of murder. When the Government of India rejected their demand, the terrorists killed Mhatre and threw his dead body into one of the streets. This kidnapping and murder was allegedly orchestrated by Amanullah Khan, a Gilgiti from Pakistan. He was assisted by some Mirpuris of the Pakistani diaspora. The British were uncooperative with India in the investigation of this case and declined to hand over those involved in the kidnapping and murder to India for investigation and prosecution. By closing their eyes to the terrorist activities of the Mirpuris from their territory, they encouraged the further radicalisation of the diaspora.

Just as the radicalisation of the Muslims of Pakistan suited the US-UK agenda in Afghanistan, the radicalisation of the diaspora in the UK, particularly the Mirpuris, suited their agenda for balkanising Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Many Pakistanis from the UK went to the training camps of the Harkat-ul-Ansar (now called the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen) and the LeT in Pakistan and got themselves trained with the knowledge and complicity of the British. They then went to Bosnia and Kosovo to wage a jihad against the Serbs with arms and ammunition and explosives allegedly supplied by the Iranian intelligence with the tacit consent of the Clinton Administration and paid for by Saudi intelligence.

- The writer is director of the Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.

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