No matter which way we turn in these troubled times it seems there is always somebody pointing an accusatory finger at us. Today it is the turn of the British, the country with which we have perhaps the closest ties. Britain is home to a large Pakistani population that contributes to its ethnic and cultural diversity and has roots that go back generations before partition. Britain also has a significant problem with some people of Pakistani origin who live there, because of their links to terrorism. This is not some half-heard tale, some over-boiled conspiracy theory, there is a real and present threat to the UK, its people and its institutions from people who have their origins here, receive training here and are operationally tasked from here.
The UK has just updated its counter-terrorism strategy and it was introduced to the wider world last Tuesday. In the press conference at which the report was launched British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith expressed serious concerns over the impact in Britain of the situation in Pakistan where Al Qaeda and groups affiliated to the Taliban are rapidly gaining influence in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. She said the strategy had noted that in some cases terror cells in the UK had received training and direction from Pakistan-based groups, and in many of the important attempted operations (as in operations that had been detected) conspirators had travelled to and from Pakistan as part of preparations. The updated strategy says that changing technology has meant that the prospect of a chemical or biological terrorist attack on Britain was now more real. Terrorists of all nationalities move with the times, and the modern terrorist is a master of new technologies and weaponry.
An interesting aspect of the new strategy is called the Preventing Violent Extremism (PVE) programme. The government intends to challenge radical views that “reject and undermine our shared values and jeopardise community cohesion”. Smith said that the government had no intention of outlawing such views or criminalising those who held them, but she added: “We will not hear these views in silence. We should all stand up for our shared values and not concede the floor to those who dismiss them.” The document defined those who rejected “shared values” as scorning the institutions and values of parliamentary democracy, dismissing the rule of law, and promoting intolerance and discrimination on the basis of race, faith, ethnicity, gender or sexuality. Here, we have no shortage of people who reject democracy, live above the law and promote intolerance and discrimination. The difference between the British government and ours is that they have put their foot down, said ‘enough is enough’ – whereas our own government is happy to do deals with those whose bitter prejudices and iconoclasm threaten the very fabric of the state itself. ‘Enough’ is not something our government is going to be saying any time soon, and the British have every right to be worried. (The News, 26 March 2009)