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UK swipe at Pak, not India

Nov. 23: Britain’s most senior law officer Dominic Grieve, who is the attorney-general, has singled out the country’s one million-strong Pakistani community for an extraordinary and unprecedented attack, calling it “corrupt”.

He went out of his way to absolve the Indian community from a similar charge.

As the Tory MP for Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, Grieve has experience of its sizeable South Asian community. “I can see many of them have come because of the opportunities that they get,” he said.

“But they also come from societies where they have been brought up to believe you can only get certain things through a favour culture. One of the things you have to make absolutely clear is that that is not the case and it’s not acceptable.”

He said electoral corruption in particular had increased. He identified Slough, Berkshire, as an example of where abuses had occurred. In 2008 a Tory councillor, Eshaq Khan, was found guilty of fraud involving postal ballots.

Earlier this year the Electoral Commission announced it was considering introducing ballot box identity checks in Tower Hamlets, east London, in an effort to stamp out electoral fraud in areas with large South Asian communities.

Asked if he was referring to the Pakistani community, Grieve responded: “Yes, it’s mainly the Pakistani community, not the Indian community. I wouldn’t draw it down to one. I’d be wary of saying it’s just a Pakistani problem.”

He added: “I happen to be very optimistic about the future of the UK. We have managed integration of minority communities better than most countries in Europe.”

Grieve’s full frontal attack on Pakistanis came in an interview with The Daily Telegraph which set his remarks into some sort of context by pointing out: “Ministers are aware that high-profile stories involving child abuse, Islamist extremism, slavery and corruption in the Pakistani community are being used by far-Right agitators such as the English Defence League to stir sectarianism.”

The paper said that “his remarks could affect Britain’s relations with Pakistan”.

It reminded readers that in 2010, David Cameron refused to apologise after he accused Pakistan of “exporting terror” in a speech the Prime Minister made on a visit to Bangalore.

Grieve praised the integration of minorities into British life, and pointed out that corruption can also be found in the “white Anglo-Saxon” community. But he said that the growth of corruption was “because we have minority communities in this country which come from backgrounds where corruption is endemic. It is something we as politicians have to wake to up to”.

There was a furious reaction to Grieve’s comments from senior Pakistani politicians. Khalid Mahmood, a Labour MP who came to the UK from Pakistan as a child, said the attorney general was marking out the Pakistani community as “more corrupt” than other minority groups.

The MP for Birmingham Perry Barr accused Grieve of trying to “divide and conquer” within communities. His comments were echoed by Lib Dem Qassim Afzal, chairman of the party’s Friends of Pakistan group, who criticised what he called Grieve’s “loose language”.

“I’m profoundly disturbed at a statement from such a senior Conservative MP against the British Pakistani community.” And Sajjad Karim, a Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and one of Grieve’s colleagues, said his intervention would be seen as “purely populist”. “As a member of the British Pakistani community myself, I’ve found these comments to be offensive (and) divisive.”

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