Arrest of Pakistani Students in Britain Angers Families

Thursday, 16 Apr 2009 08:47 PM

By Kaswar Klasra

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PESHAWAR -- Wednesday was supposed to be a happy time for the family of Abid Naseer. His parents had made elaborate plans for the young man’s 23rd birthday party, right down to the gourmet chocolate cake from a well known neighborhood bakery.

Instead, the occasion was “a day full of sorrow,” according to Naseer’s family. Before he could return to Peshawar for a birthday vacation, the university student was among 12 men arrested in Great Britain last week on charges of planning terrorist attacks there. Ten of those arrested were, like Naseer, Pakistanis who entered Britain on student visas.

All but one of the men is still being held and interrogated, sources say.

The arrests have sparked outrage in Pakistan, where government officials have issued a formal complaint against British law enforcement for refusing to reveal the suspects’ identities or grant Pakistani diplomats consular access to the men. Pakistan’s High Commissioner in London, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, accused British officials not of leaking details of the allegations against the men, but of failing to hand over the evidence against them, according to a report in the Daily Mail.

The diplomatic fireworks are little consolation to Naseer’s, father Nusrullah Khattak. With tears in his eyes, he insists his son is an innocent youth who went to the U.K. seeking an education in information technology at a college in Manchester.

“It is unjust to arrest Naseer, whose only sin was that he was a Pakistani Muslim with a long beard who prays regularly,” Khattak tells Newsmax. “Naseer was never associated with any religious organization. He never met any religious scholar, and I am sure he was nothing to do with terrorism.”

Khattak tells Newsmax the only details he’s received about his son’s arrest and incarceration have come through media reports. “I kept calling him on his cell phone, however I got no response,” the distraught father adds.

The arrests have caused a bit of a sensation in Britain as well. The raids were carried out in broad daylight after the government’s top anti-terror police officer, assistant commissioner Bob Quick, was photographed carrying clearly legible details of the operation.

He has since resigned over the blunder, according to an AFP report.

The father of six concedes that there are Pakistanis involved in terrorist activities in the U.K. But Khattak urged British authorities focus on eliminating the root causes of terrorism activities and not punish innocent foreign students.

“You cannot imagine the pain of this unfortunate family whose loved one is in illegal detention thousands miles away from home,” Khattak says while dabbing at tears with tissue.

“Britain claims to be a role model state, however, by arresting an innocent student Britain has exposed itself,” he adds, “It is not fair to arrest innocent people whose only sin is that they are Muslims and love their Islamic traditions.”

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