New Commons likely to be pro-Pak

MPs who gang up on India are elected from 'safe' constituencies

By Amit Roy in London
  • Published 20.04.17
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A picture taken from a video shows Prime Minister Theresa May addressing the House of Commons on Wednesday. (Reuters)

London, April 19: Whatever the result of the general election on June 8, it seems likely that the new House of Commons will be even more pro-Pakistani on issues such as Kashmir than the present one.

This is because Pakistani-origin MPs, mostly Labour, tend to be elected from "safe" constituencies with a large number of Pakistani voters.

This is not always the case with the Indian-origin MPs.

Even more significantly, while the Pakistani-origin MPs tend to gang up on India, as happened in the Commons debate on January 19 this year on Indian human rights abuses in Kashmir, all Indian origin members with the sole exception of Virendra Sharma were conspicuous by their absence.

To a great extent this imbalance was covered up under David Cameron, who went out of his way to strengthen relations with India and 2.5 million Indians in the UK. He assumed that the Tories had little support among one million Pakistanis.

To be sure, Theresa May wants good relations with India - after all, she visited India in November last year - but the country is not such a priority for her. Her energies will be devoted understandably to securing as good a Brexit deal as possible with the EU.

These are early days yet but opinion polls published today in The Daily Telegraph and The Times predicted she might be able to increase the Tory majority from 17 to 100.

As with any general election, some familiar faces will either stand down or lose their seats to be replaced by fresh figures. If May wins anything like a 100-seat majority, many Labour MPs are bound to bite the dust.

In marked contrast to India, where there might be well over a million people on a constituency, the corresponding figure for the UK is between 60,000 and 80,000.

Labour MPs who have a fight on their hands include Tulip Siddiq, member for Hampstead and Kilburn in north London and niece of the Bangladeshi Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina Wazed. She is defending a majority of 1,138.

Another Bangladeshi, Rupa Huq, whose younger sister Konnie Huq is a well known TV presenter, has a majority of only 274 in Ealing Central and Acton in west London.

The Pakistani origin MPs are invariably well placed. For example, Khalid Mahmood, who believes Saudi Arabia's human rights record is better than that of India, enjoys a majority of 14,828 in Birmingham Perry Parr.

Jeremy Corbyn has seen fit to appoint him his shadow minister for foreign and Commonwealth affairs.

In the Kashmir debate back in January, he told the Commons: "Kashmiris are having their human rights violated and abused. That has gone on for at least the past six decades, since Indian forces unlawfully invaded Kashmir in 1948.

"There are currently more than 500,000 Indian troops in Kashmir, and they are protected by the Armed Forces (Jammu & Kashmir) Special Power Act 1990, which allows them complete free rein to abuse and torture people."

He was supported by Nusrat Ghani, a Tory who has a majority of 22,967 Wealden in East Sussex, who added: "Prime Minister Modi of India said that any meaningful bilateral dialogue necessarily requires an environment that is free from terrorism and violence - and he is absolutely right.

"In Kashmir, pellet guns are being used by security forces... the Central Reserve Police Force continues to use them persistently. These guns cause life-threatening injuries and brutally blind people - so far, more than 9,000 people have been injured."

When India was defended by Virendra Sharma, who has a majority of 18,760 in Ealing Southall - he spoke of terrorism from Pakistan - he was lectured by fellow Labour MP Shabana Mahmood, who has a majority of 21,868 in Birmingham Ladywood.

She said: "I have to say to my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Southall that the big difference between the Indian government and other governments that commit human rights abuses is that India is the largest democracy in the world.

"Being a democracy is not simply about giving people a vote to decide their government. It includes much more. It is about fundamental respect for the rule of law and for basic human rights that must be protected and that sit alongside the ability of the people to elect their government."Among Indian origin MPs, the low profile Tory Rishi Sunak, who has a majority of 19,550 in Richmond in Yorkshire - he happens to be the son-in-law of Infosys founder NR Narayana Murthy was absent. He has kept away from most things Indian and has been something of a disappointment to the community.

Also absent were two Tory MPs possibly because they were ministers - Priti Patel, who has a 19,554 majority in Witham in Essex, and Alok Sharma.