| Imran Khan: Period of uncertainty
London, Aug. 7: Imran Khan, the former cricketer-turned politician, said today in London that ordinary Pakistanis were unimpressed with their government’s fight against terrorism and believed that President Pervez Musharraf was motivated more by a desire to please the Americans.
Imran’s comments came as British police were granted time to question 11 men, aged between 19 and 32, until tomorrow evening. It is believed that most of the men are of Pakistani origin.
Two men, among those arrested on Tuesday on suspicion of being involved in terrorism, have been released without charge. At this stage it is unclear how much information has been passed to the Americans and the British by the Pakistani government. The contradictory comments of Pakistani ministers have added to the confusion.
According to Imran, who has so far said little about his ex-wife Jemima’s developing relationship with Hugh Grant, Pakistanis are deeply sceptical about their government’s role in the global war on terrorism.
Imran, the only member of the National Assembly from his Tehrik-e-Insaaf party, suggested that ordinary Pakistanis were concerned that arrests of al Qaida “suspects” in Pakistan may reflect Musharraf’s eagerness for US support.
Imran told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The problem is that people are abducted in Pakistan, they are not presented in a court of law, they are not allowed to prove their innocence, there are so many people that have disappeared. We don’t know who is al Qaida or who is who. Just because the government calls someone al Qaida, doesn’t mean they are al Qaida, because the government is desperate for American support.”
He added: “There is great uncertainty in Pakistan in what is going on and amongst the people as a whole, they do not believe that the way this war on terrorism is being fought is beneficial for Pakistan in any way.”
Imran went on: “There should be every effort to catch members of al Qaida who are terrorists. But on another level, Pakistan is descending into more terrorism since 9/11. There have been suicide bombings in Pakistan against the President, the future Prime Minister, the chief minister was attacked. The level of terrorism in Pakistan is increasing.”
He accused Musharraf’s government of becoming too dependent on US support. “Our government is no different to the Iraqi governing council. The real power is with General Musharraf. The whole system depends on one man..
And he has narrowly escaped a suicide attack against him. If anything happens to him, there is chaos ahead. What should have happened in Pakistan is that we should have had a genuine democracy which should have dealt with this issue.”
Last night, police released a 25-year-old man who was picked up last Tuesday in Lancashire as part of the nationwide arrests. There are also reports that five al Qaida men, also Pakistanis, are on the run in Britain. The five have been linked to an alleged terrorist plot to attack Heathrow Airport, according to newspaper accounts.
The home secretary, David Blunkett, said the country was “maintaining a state of heightened readiness”, although he made no specific comment on reports that members of a terror cell had eluded police capture.
“We are maintaining a state of heightened readiness and taking every feasible precautionary measure to protect British citizens, both here and abroad, consistent with the level of threat,” said Blunkett.
Responding to the angry reaction of Muslim leaders who have complained that the community was being picked on, Blunkett said: “We do not see the Muslim community as a threat — the vast majority of Muslim people are peaceful and law-abiding. The powers within the Terrorism Act are aimed at preventing terrorism, whatever its source. They are not aimed at a particular race, religion, or any other group.”
The five men said to be on the run are believed to be under the command of an alleged senior British al Qaida agent, who was reportedly among the 12 men arrested by police during the raids in London and three counties.
Abu Eisa al-Hindi was said to have been involved in the Heathrow plot, details of which were discovered on the computer of 25-year-old Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, an al Qaida suspect recently arrested in Pakistan.
The files were believed to include photographs of Heathrow and pictures of underpasses beneath several buildings in London. Police in Britain have suggested that the latest arrests have helped to scupper separate plots to use car bombs against Heathrow or Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham airports.