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Who shopped Pakistani students – ‘very big terror plot?’

By Dr Shahid Qureshi: –

Rule of law is the corner stone of British values and democracy which is as many believe was tarnished by some illegal and doggy policies of Tony Blair. Surely Prime Minister Gordon need not to put his feet into Tony Blair’s messy shoes and dirty tracks?  The most important question is how British Police and counter terrorism agents and even Prime Minister Gordon Brown led to believe a “very big plot” against the United Kingdom toppled in a hurry in Manchester, followed by the army of journalists and cameras. What was the source or sources of this credible intelligence led operation? Why was executive action taken in a hurry with the media hype without considering the damage it could cause the friendly relations between Pakistan and Britain? Barrister Amjad Malik representing these Pakistani students free of cost as usual.

One analyst said that ‘it seems that British establishment is in some kind of lobby led pressure to produce results or some kind of ‘terror plot’ after every few months or so? It seems probably to keep British Muslims and especially vibrant and law abiding Pakistani community under pressure? Are they listening and connecting to wrong people? Some reportedly dodgy characters who are running the ‘shops of fighting extremism’ in Britain are not helping at all?

A senior analyst said, ‘recently appointed Asif Durani – Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan’s response was quite balanced and calculated in the absence of his North London based boss H.E Wajid Shamsul Hassan who was in Pakistan. Instead of rushing back to London he chose to stay in Pakistan? H.E Wajid Hassan is one of 14 political appointees Ambassadors and High Commissioners of Pakistan including USA, United Nations. The response of the press office was appalling and disgraceful. Journalists did not receive any feedback about the activities of the High Commission; obviously journalists are not psychics to report the efforts of the High Commissioner? Press Minister’s position is lying vacant for the past few months on such an important station?’

The Guardian reported on 22nd April 2009, ‘Police and counter-terrorism officials were left embarrassed last night after nine Pakistani students suspected of involvement in what Gordon Brown claimed was a “very big plot” against the UK were released without charge. The nine were due to be deported after being handed over to the UK Border Agency. Two remaining suspects are still being questioned by Greater Manchester police.  The 12th suspect, an 18-year-old, was released without charge and handed to the Border Agency for deportation on 11 April.

The Guardian understands the decision to arrest the suspects on 8 April came after a three-way row between MI5, senior officers in the Metropolitan police and the Greater Manchester police. MI5 were strongly of the opinion that the arrests should wait while more intelligence was gathered. But in an example of the tensions between Whitehall counter-terrorism officials and their counterparts in the police, the decision was made to take “executive action” even though the intelligence suggested there was little evidence to charge the suspects.” What was the hurry they suspects were under surveillance like sitting ducks and could be picked up anytime?

A security analyst said, ‘The real danger UK might face in future is from those who are going to Israel receiving active military training from IDF every summer, coming back in jeans and British Government do not have a clue about their numbers and names’?According to United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering International Terrorism  published March 2009, ‘between 2001 and 31st March 2008, over 1,450 terrorism related arrests took place, of which 1/3rd led to a charge with three-quarters of these resulted in a conviction. Around 1 in 10 these arrests resulted in alternative action being taken, for example through immigration powers.

The arrest to charge ratio is similar to that for other criminal offences. Between 2001/02 and 2007/08, almost 200 people were convicted terrorist related offences”. According to BBC report published on 12th September 2006 terror arrests, ‘Between September 2001 and 30 June 2006, a total of 1,047 people were arrested for offences under the Terrorism Act, according to the Metropolitan Police. Of, these 158 have been charged with offences under the Act and about 60 are awaiting trial. At least 23 people have been convicted of terrorism offences. Another 174 were charged with other offences and another 69 are being dealt with by the Immigration Service. Britain faced terrorist threats mostly originating from the Northern Ireland from Christian Catholics long before the so called ‘war on terror’.

It was never called Catholic or Protestant terrorism after the religious background of the perpetrators? The ‘Real IRA’ claimed attack in March 2009 on a military base in Northern Ireland which resulted in deaths of two British soldiers heading Afghanistan broke the 10 years old peace. The 1998 Good Friday accord ended 30 years of conflict in Northern Ireland. According to British Home Office between 1969 and 1998, more than 3500 people and 500 British soldiers killed in the UK as a result of (N-Ireland) terrorism. There are reports of many failed bomb attacks the latest one was in February 2009, when the security forces found a 300lb (136kg) car bomb in Castlewellan, County Down in Northern Ireland. Some reports suggested that material might have come from the neighboring Irish republic? Critics say Britain never bombed, invaded or sent drones to the Irish Republic where some of the terrorism might have been originated?

( Dr Shahid Qureshi is senior award wining investigative journalist and writer on security, foreign policy, and terrorism based in London )

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