Guest contribution-A tribute to British democracy

May 11, 2010

parliamentThe following is a guest contribution. Reuters is not responsible for the content and the views expressed are the author’s alone. The writer is the High Commissioner of Pakistan to Britain.

By Wajid Shamsul Hasan

It is, no doubt, a tribute to British democracy that all sections of its society are represented in parliament. For us it is also heartening to note that out of nine Muslim members elected in the May 6 election, seven are of Pakistani origin (five belonging to Labour and two from the Conservatives). For the first time in British history two women of Pakistani origin have made it to parliament. Compared to previous elections, this time three more Pakistani MPs will be sitting in the House of Commons.

Britain and Pakistan are bound by a long shared history, which at times becomes nostalgic amongst the senior citizens who in their youth had some kind of interaction with our part of the world. But the migration of Pakistanis and Kashmiris to Britain during the past six decades has certainly created a human bridge between the two countries. One can see a growing interaction in the cultural, economic and political arenas, which makes Pakistan and the UK favourite destinations for the people of the two countries, especially those who have their origins in Pakistan and Kashmir.  For first-time visitors from Pakistan, London hardly represents an alien city given the fact that almost a million South Asians, including 50 percent Pakistanis, live in this city and immediately connect to their fellow Pakistanis through common language, food and clothes.

In such an environment, it is a matter of great satisfaction that British society has afforded the opportunity to the people of Pakistani and Kashmiri origin to be represented by their own people. This also shows the admirable tolerance shown by the British people and the government towards minorities and serves as a lesson to freedom-loving people throughout the world that in a democratic society, a fair representation of different interest groups is the best guarantee for stability and progress of any society.

It is incumbent upon the Pakistani diaspora to value the British democratic system and take measures to address the problems faced by the community. The election of Pakistani and Kashmiri members to the House of Commons and in councils across Britain is reflective of their keen interest in British political life. As a fellow Pakistani I am proud of their success. It is a recognition of their hard work and their acceptability in British society. I am confident that with perseverance they would prove to be an asset to British political life.

But, I have a word of caution: We in Pakistan are passing through a sensitive phase of defeating extremists and terrorists. Please help us in neutralizing the forces of obscurantism and pay attention to your youth to stop them from falling prey to extremist propaganda. We all know that British youth of Pakistani origin are getting radicalized within the United Kingdom. Unlike some rhetorical claims that three-fourth of terror plots on Britain originate from Pakistan, it is Britain itself where we have to find the causes of radicalization and their remedies. Pakistan is not a place for extremist baptism; we have made them run and we will not rest till they are neutralized.

It has become increasingly obvious during my interaction with British colleagues and scholars that something has to be done to deradicalize the British youth. What is it that makes a youth radical despite having opportunities for basic education and health facilities? Certainly, the newly elected members of the House of Commons with roots in Pakistan will have the occasion to raise these issues in the parliament and with the new government.

But we also need assistance from our friends to rejuvenate Pakistan’s economy to provide more jobs in the country and wean the youth away from extremist tendencies. I am confident that the Pakistani and Kashmiri diaspora would play their valuable role in this regard. The newly elected members of the House of Commons can steer the process of investment in Pakistan and also lobby their EU counterparts for greater market access for Pakistan.

*The writer is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to the UK


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