Friday, 24 April 2009

Might is not always right: apologise and let them study

Pakistani parents sent 9,300 students last year to study in the UK. Vast majority of them spent last couple of weeks in a state of anxiety about the well being and future of their sons and daughters. Many of these students must have felt that with once stroke of brush they have been branded as suspected terrorists on Friday 10th April when based on a half baked intelligence information 11 students were arrested and even the Prime Minister Gordon Brown, pointed the finger squarely at Pakistan stating "We are dealing with a very big terrorist plot … there were a number of people who are suspected of it who have been arrested. That police operation was successful...We know that there are links between terrorists in Britain and terrorists in Pakistan."

Every nation including Britain has a right to keep an eye on possible threats to its security and take action when this threat appears to be becoming real. In case of students arrested in April it does not appear to be the case of real threat but an attempt to deal with momentary lapse of judgement of an otherwise competent head of counterterrorism, assistant commissioner Bob Quick, who inadvertently allowed details of the operation to be photographed outside Downing Street, forcing the hand of security agencies to take action based on raw suspicions rather than hard evidence.

Now that the police and intelligence agencies have carried out their investigations and found that any evidence against these students will not stand in a court of law they have been released without charge. But to make matters worse they have been handed over to the UK Borders Agency for deportation back to Pakistan. This is highly highly prejudicial and damaging to these students and will end up ruining their lives and careers.

I for one come from a country where it is quite common for security agencies to make suspects disappear without any trial and their families never to find out what happened to them, where it is common for innocent close family members to held by police as a collateral for suspects they couldn't arrest, and where Chief Justice of Supreme Court can be sacked by a dictator for standing up for rights of these suspects. So no wonder civil liberties and rule of law is important to me and to all those who adopted this country as a homeland. One of the greatest things British is the principle of "innocent until proven guilty" - if the police and security agencies believe that their suspicions are suspicions and not evidence (real or circumstantial) that can stand in a court of law than apologise for the wrongful arrests and let these students study - that is why 9300 of them are here.

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