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12.53 pm

Mr. Crispin Blunt (Reigate): When there is a consensus across the House, it behoves us to listen very carefully to the voices of dissent. Therefore I listened carefully to the Father of the House and to the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin (Mr. Galloway), and it is necessary for those of us who represent the consensus to have answers to the points that they raise and to the questions that they ask.

The Father of the House and the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin may have given a cogent explanation of why these events happened so that we are able to understand the motivation of those who flew the aircraft on the suicide missions. However, the causes do not and cannot ever excuse the atrocity that has taken place. The fact is, the United States and, by extension, its allies in the liberal democracies, now find themselves in a state of war

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against these people, who have been in a state of war against us for a considerable period. Now, however, on our part, our conflict with them is overt.

Mr. Robert Marshall–Andrews (Medway): Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the use of the term "the vernacular of warfare", which we have heard increasingly, endows those organisations with the status that they seek?

Mr. Blunt: The hon. Gentleman must understand that the organisation that is almost certainly responsible for the atrocities on Tuesday is already extremely widespread and, as the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin made clear, well supported throughout the Muslim world. There is an enemy for us to fight. The hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin and the Father of the House made a case for magnanimity in victory, but first we need victory.

I commend to Members the 1 August 2001 edition of Jane's Intelligence Review for an understanding of the enemy. The United States has already named Osama bin Laden as the man chiefly believed to be responsible, and Jane's Intelligence Review gives a good summary of his organisation. There should be sympathy and understanding for the view of the hon. Member for Glasgow, Kelvin that the cause and roots of the matter lie in the western assistance given to intelligence agencies in Pakistan and organisations run by Osama bin Laden in the 1980s, when we supported the Mujaheddin fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. Bin Laden continued his operations in Afghanistan in support of the Taliban in the 1990s. His organisation clearly had the means, the opportunity and, of course, the motive to carry out the atrocity in Tuesday. In my judgment, it is clear that he and his organisation are almost certainly responsible for those acts. For the Taliban Government to suggest that Osama bin Laden could not have been responsible because he could not have taught the people concerned to fly is a demonstration of their complicity in his actions.

In the time remaining I want to focus on one country with which Britain has close links and which is central to any action taken against that organisation. Afghanistan's neighbour, Pakistan, the decision that its Government now take and the assistance that they will, or will not, give the United States, our allies and us in taking on that organisation will be central to the success of our operation. Pakistan is in the most appalling state; it is a military dictatorship at the moment under General Musharraf because of the failure of its own democratic politics; it is a byword for corruption in the world, it and Nigeria being, in the estimation of the Foreign Office, the two most corrupt countries in the world. When I visited Pakistan with a previous Foreign Secretary, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Benazir Bhutto had just appointed her husband Minister for Investment, which was regarded as a sick joke by Pakistanis. One in 240 people in Pakistan pays tax; the previous Prime Minister, Nawar Sharif, is reported to owe $25 million in unpaid taxes. Such people are the country's leaders; endemic corruption and the virtual failure of civil society led to the military coup.

That is the desperate situation in which Pakistan finds itself. In the west, those of us with military experience tend to look to the military to rescue the situation, but we must understand that the military in Pakistan is not the

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Sandhurst-educated Indian army that was inherited in 1947; it is a very different institution. The Pakistan army, which currently runs the country, is split. There are those who support the Taliban; the inter-services intelligence agency has been responsible for supporting terrorism in Kashmir, and has organised support for the Taliban in Afghanistan. There is a clear overlap between those agencies and the recruiting of young Pakistanis to the religious schools. They then go to the military training camps in Afghanistan, which have provided many of the most zealous and determined fighters for the Taliban inside Afghanistan. There is a clear overlap with the activities that Osama bin Laden's organisation has been carrying out both in Afghanistan and around the world.

Pakistan now faces an immensely difficult decision. That is true of its leader in particular. I say to the Government that if we can secure the wholehearted co-operation of Pakistan and its intelligence agencies in this endeavour, we shall find a route by which to convey our human intelligence—referred to by the right hon. Member for Hartlepool (Mr. Mandelson)—to the organisations that are our enemies in this fight. Only when we have destroyed the effectiveness of the organisation that carried out the atrocity of 11 September can we exercise magnanimity in ensuring that we remove, in future, the causes that have led people to behave in such an appalling way.

1.1 pm

Mr. Khalid Mahmood (Birmingham, Perry Barr): On Tuesday evening, I sat with my family in my home in Birmingham, watching television with increasing horror and revulsion as the pictures from New York and Washington were repeatedly shown. We watched the images of an airliner filled with passengers smashing into the World Trade Centre; we watched the buildings explode and collapse. We watched terrified New Yorkers staring at the sky with horror and disbelief, matched only by their sense of helplessness. We sat there, as a family, sharing the grief that most people in the United States and most people in Britain were feeling.

Like many members of our extended family and members of our community who were watching television that evening, we were all saddened and grief-stricken by what had taken place. We were no different from any other family in Britain: we were all the same, grieving over a great loss of life—the lives of innocent women and children on those aeroplanes, and of innocent workers who had gone to those offices to work and who had been put in a situation of which they had no knowledge. There was no rhyme or reason to their taking part in any of the so-called wars that these people purported to be fighting.

Those workers were not players in this horrific act of terrorism; they were doing their day-to-day jobs. They were doing the things that they did normally, in their normal lives. They were communicating according to the normal process. Thousands of innocent lives were lost. Families were ripped apart. The feelings that I have described remain, but they are matched by determination to find the monsters who were responsible for this outrageous act and to punish them.

People look at me and ask what my religion is. It is not the religion of the people who carried out that act. My religion is the religion that believes in peace and harmony. Above all, I am British—and, in fact, a Brummie, having been brought up in Birmingham and having lived there. Birmingham faced similar problems in 1974, when a building there was bombed by the IRA. Councillor John

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O'Keefe, a prominent member of the Sparkbrook community, was focused on by the rest of the community because he was Irish. It was not because he had any links with the IRA or anybody else. He had settled in Birmingham and wanted to play a part in society there, but he was picked on because of his Irish heritage.

I grew up, went to school and did my engineering in Birmingham. It is also where I joined the Labour party. I could go to school and to my place of worship without feeling different from the rest of the community. I believed that our nation's integration and cultural diversity was what we wanted. It is what this country is. Those are our strengths and I do not want to see them broken down by those who purport to be Muslims. Such people cannot claim that any doctrine they follow is a religion of God. They are acting for their own ends, not for those of any community that they seek to represent.

We must look at the issues that have been raised by the actions of such people and how to address them. Hon. Members have talked about the national co-operation that will be necessary to root out those people. People like me have to look at our communities and at how to provide a sound base for all who live in our constituencies. We can achieve that and move forward only if we have respect for each other and are not taken in by the doctrines of evil offered by any side.

It was not long ago that people in the north of the country were trying to divide the community on the basis of skin colour and religion. Those very people will now have another opportunity to carry out such activities. It has already started in Birmingham. I was at a radio station yesterday morning when I learned that such people were ringing up mosques and other institutions leaving abusive messages and putting excrement through doors. I spoke to a member of the Sikh council. He is not a Muslim but ignorant people do not recognise the difference. They lump everybody together. The sad thing is that everybody will be lumped together in a senseless approach to this situation.

We must be aware of the media's role. I would not normally say this, but I must congratulate The Sun on its approach today and on its editorial. I hope that the rest of the media will follow suit and not further ignite the tensions that have been created in our community. We can do without that. We are here to live together. We should grieve together at the great loss that has affected all our communities.

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