By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
I wanted to write my column on the astounding success of Karachi Literary Festival for the first time on Saturday at the hub of London’s cultural activities -the South Bank but then I was shell shocked and pulled away from my topic by an enormous tragic event in Manchester Monday night.
Till the writing of this piece early this morning, police reported 19 people killed and 59 injured in an horrendous act of terrorism just after American pop singer Ariana Grande had finished her performance in Manchester Arena Pop Music concert around 9:30 pm GMT last night.
Unlike Pakistan where our law enforcers have favourite list of ‘usual suspects’ or foreign hands and local terrorists to hurriedly blame for any incident, police in UK wants to be accurate in giving casualty figures, tries to be doubly sure before identifying the culprits and in case of a terrorist acts, it does not spell out anything unless it has some clue about those involved. It detains people on suspicion but does not hold them a minute longer than necessary.
In case of Manchester, police is busy in collecting evidence, has not rushed to declare it a case of suicide bombing as some American security experts have. Neither has it linked it to any terrorist or religion/ethnic group though Prime Minister Theresa May has condemned it as an appalling act of terror. Entire world and British Muslims in particular join her in profound condolences to the bereaved families who lost their dear ones.
London has been the capital of political dissent and a heaven for political exiles from all parts of the world since ages. Wherever political activists faced persecution, they have found London’s comforting wings spread to welcome and protect them as such it has a blossoming unparalleled culture of tolerance.
My personal experience is that it is the most glorious and tolerant capital of a country which has no match in peaceful co-existence for all religions and ethnic populations with the exception of rare incidents like 7/7 that were definitely acts of terror. However, there were people who found its cause in the policy of the then Labour government under Prime Minister Tony Blair who preferred to be a poodle of American President George W. Bush rather than maintain British independence and innate sense of justice. He advertently helped President Bush Junior to push the world into a century of terror on sexed up dossiers of weapons of mass destruction fabricated in collaboration with the American administration for invading oil rich Iraq.
Being from a country that has been the worst victim of terrorism ever and seeing rise of Islam phobia worldwide, I know what profoundly paralysing trauma people under go when they are rocked by a fatal explosion like that of Manchester. One can just helplessly offer condolences to the bereaved families and gather all the courage to be united with the nation to get tougher to fight and eliminate the perpetrators of terrorism.
One day earlier to Manchester’s tragic incident I attended an election rally of rebellious George Galloway contesting as an independent candidate from Gorton/ Manchester constituency that had earlier fallen vacant due to death of Sir Gerald Kaufman — a dear and revered friend and a passionate supporter of Pakistan, justice for the people of Kashmir and Palestine.
George was one of the few leaders in the Labour government who came out openly opposing invasion of Iraq and as a consequence was expelled by Tony Blair from the party. As a parliamentarian he had won unprecedented laurels to be declared best orator of his time. And I am sure those who must have watched him defend himself in the American Senate in his full glory tearing to shred all the accusations against him would know how committed he is to lost causes, I distinctly remember his dreadful prophecy than that has come true.
Referring to President Donald Trump’s multi-billion arms selling visit to Saudi Arabia, George reminded of his own opposition to US/UK war on Iraq on fake documentation of weapons of mass destruction. He said he had warned them that instead of destroying Al-Qaeda in Iraq they would end up giving birth to 100 times more lethal threat of terrorism that’s what ISIS today is.
One tends to agree with the historic observation that successive American presidents since George Bush have mastered the art of holding the world’s resources in ransom by a deliberately generating uncertainty. The message of President Donald Trump at the 42-nation Arab-American Summit was much more of the same. His commandment to go after Iran to the so-called 41-nation coalition and its army more or less amounts to plunging our region in a sectarian war that would in fact be in aid of Israel’s war against Iran, Hezbollah, Houthies in Yemen, Palestinians waging their struggle in Israeli occupied territory... Indeed, there could not be more tighter slap on our foreign policy than the serious concern expressed at the summit on acts of terrorism against India — a subtle pointer at Islamabad as the villain of the piece.
The Arab-American Summit in Jeddah minus Iran with the clear objective of taming it into subservience can at best be described as the darkest hour for the Muslims in the region especially Pakistan. Death-knell has tolled; Muslims should prepare themselves to burn in the inferno of a sectarian conflict like of which had yet to be seen. Regretfully our role and our retired Army Chief -leading the coalition army—perhaps will plunge us all in an Islamic holocaust like of which we shall never see again. CNN’s News Alert quoted President Tramp’s remark in his speech in Saudi Arabia in which he called on Muslim nations to confront terrorists and Iran. “Drive them out of your holy land... out of this earth.” I wonder which Holy Land he was talking of.
Wajid Shamsul Hasan is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist