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Britain’s incongruent toleration of support for pro-Pakistani terror groups

Author: Prakash Shah
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: July 6, 2018
URL:      https://www.dailypioneer.com/columnists/edit/once-again-in-the-grey-zone.html

Putting Pakistan on the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force is welcome. The UK would, one hopes, no longer countenance the kind of support once fomented for jihad in Afghanistan

 The burning of India’s flag in Parliament Square during the London Commonwealth heads of Government meeting in April 2018 sparked off an online petition which has so far received more than 20,000 signatures. It is assumed that members of the Sikh Federation, UK, and the terror-supporting Pakistan Occupied Kashmiris were together involved in taking down the Indian flag.

 Despite the petition, much social media activity, individual representations to ministers, and raising of the matter in the British Parliament, there is no whiff of any police action or prosecution against the perpetrators.

 Online video evidence of meetings prior to the criminal acts suggests collusion between supporters of jihad and Khalistan in planning action against the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s delegation to Britain. Only a prosecution would enable the public to know of the exact facts and whether the flag incident was one of the resultant actions. At least two new members of the House of Commons have a close affiliation to the Sikh Federation and, significantly, neither has condemned the flag burning. Members of the public will have little idea of what other criminal acts were stymied during the Commonwealth meeting by the hard pressed British security forces, to whom a certain latitude must be due, notwithstanding the lack of action against the flag-burners. Terrorism remains a constant threat in Britain as ever more brutal, IS-type atrocities have spread to Europe as they have to Kashmir.

 The Azad Kashmiri diaspora have not distinguished themselves as exemplary citizens in their British home. It may come as no surprise therefore that one such, Lord Nazir Ahmed, a Labour Party appointee to the House of Lords, appears at the vanguard of a campaign for jihad in Kashmir. In July 2017, he was among those leading a rally commemorating the death of a Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani, in Birmingham, a city already enjoying the dubious distinction of being a key centre of Islamic jihad. The police had allowed the rally to go ahead despite appeals from the public as well as the 11th hour withdrawal of support from Birmingham City Council after concerns were raised, exceptionally so, by the Indian High Commissioner to the UK. The public event in Birmingham celebrated the death of a commander of a terrorist organisation run from Pakistan. The European Union (EU) has, already since 2005, added Hizbul Mujahideen to its list of banned terror groups. This decision, taken by the EU Council of Ministers of all (then) 25 member states, meant that the group's financial assets in the EU were frozen and the UK also complied with the collective decision. In August 2017, the US designated Hizbul Mujahideen, the largest armed group in Indian-administered Kashmir, as a “foreign terrorist” organisation, imposing sanctions on it including freezing of assets it may hold in the US. The UK has supported Hizbul’s proscription as a terrorist organisation in the UN Security Council, which was only prevented by China's veto.

 Burhan Wani had links with internationally wanted, Hafiz Saeed. India has issued an Interpol Red Corner Notice against Saeed for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, the United States has listed Saeed as a Specially Designated National, and he was also individually designated by the United Nations Security Council in December 2008.

 Hizbul Mujahideen, however, remains out of the list of proscribed terrorist organisations under the UK’s Terrorism Act 2000. What would proscription do? It would impose criminal penalties for belonging to an organisation, inviting support for, arranging or managing meetings in support of it, and addressing such meetings. And Hizbul certainly appears to meet with the legislation's proscription criteria. Notwithstanding the lack of proscription, the activities of Lord Ahmed and like-minded supporters of Burhan Wani and Hizbul Mujahideen would conceivably fall within the criminal offence of encouragement of terrorism as defined by the Terrorism Act 2006. It is remarkable though that no police or prosecutorial action has been taken to prevent public demonstrations in favour of Hizbul terrorists. The West Midlands Police instead allowed the 2017 rally. The latitude provided to Lord Ahmed and like-minded supporters of terrorists encourages them to continue their activities. On July 8 2018, a demonstration in front of the Indian High Commission in London is planned. This will be followed by a rally in Birmingham on July 14 2018. This year, support also comes from Lord Qurban Hussain, another Azad Kashmiri member of the British House of Lords.

 The British authorities do not require reminders of the direct connection between the official acquiescence to the support for war in Afghanistan in the 1980s and the spawning of conditions for Islamic militancy subsequently in the UK. This militancy has constituted the bedrock of incitement to carry out acts of terror against innocent British people over the past two decades. Young people raised in Britain, both male and female, continue to regard joining terrorist organisations as praiseworthy, demonstrated by the many who have joined IS. Security experts have warned that hundreds have returned to the UK.

 Astonishingly, British parliamentarians appear to be in the throes of groups whose activities are prohibited or ought to be. Vote bank politics owing to disciplined voting guided by mosques dictates the fate of some 80 Labour Party parliamentary seats. Without that, it cannot ever hope to gain power.

 Counterintuitively, virtually all British Hindu organisations, which have increasingly become Labour Party controlled fronts, failed to support a petition urging the British Home Secretary to ban Hizbul Mujahideen. Besides, there are strong suspicions of covert links between Khalistani militants and the British authorities who regard them as useful leverage against India. Support for Kashmiri jihadists and Khalistanis unsurprisingly finds greatest support in UK’s Labour Party, although politicians in other parties also demonstrate prevarication when terrorism in India is at issue.

 The UK would,one hopes, no longer countenance the kind of support once fomented for jihad in Afghanistan. Last month’s readmission of Pakistan onto the grey list of the inter-governmental body, the Financial Action Task Force, should be a welcome move. Both UK and India are represented on this body and the decision presumably comes after they both assented. British positions in such international fora appear to indicate a seriousness about the fight against terrorism. The continued toleration afforded to activities of pro-Hizbul parliamentarians and their cohort then appears all the more incongruent.

- (The writer is Reader in Culture and Law, Department of Law, Queen Mary, University of London)
 
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