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That this House recognises the vital contribution that the UKs six million carers make to society; welcomes recent announcements on carers including the Government review of the first ever National Strategy for carers, the New Deal for Carers and the Treasury report Aiming high for disabled children: better support for families as steps towards an improvement in recognition and support for carers; notes that the review of the National Strategy includes a far reaching consultation with carers and others to make recommendations for the short, medium and long-term; further welcomes the extra £25 million for short-term home-based respite care for carers and the extra £3 million towards establishing a national helpline for carers announced in 2007; congratulates the Government for introducing in 2007 the new Expert Carers Programme; further notes that the Pensions Bill currently before Parliament includes
a package of reforms to recognise the contribution made by carers and ensure that they can build up better pension records; further notes that the right to request flexible working introduced by this Government will help carers better balance their work and caring benefits; and further welcomes the substantial improvements made to the benefits available to low income carers.
Madam Deputy Speaker (Sylvia Heal): Order. Will Members who are leaving the Chamber please do so as quickly and quietly as possible? Will those who are remaining please reduce the level of conversation?
Mr. Soames: Today, I tabled a parliamentary question to the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Since a Foreign Office Minister is present, I wondered if I might raise the matter with you, Madam Deputy Speaker. The question was:
To ask the Secretary of State...how many Russian diplomats have been asked to leave London for activities incompatible with their diplomatic status in the last 12 months.
I will reply to the hon. Member shortly.
It seems to me that that cannot be an accurate or proper reply to give to a Member of Parliamentthat the Foreign Office does not know how many Russian diplomats have been asked to leave because of activities incompatible with their diplomatic status. As a general point, will you say that the Chair expects that properly tabled questions deserve and require proper answers?
Madam Deputy Speaker: The occupant of the Chair has many responsibilities, but Ministers replies are entirely Ministers responsibility. I think the hon. Gentlemans point of order will have been heard and noted.
That the Value Added Tax (Payments on Account) (Amendment) Order 2007 (S.I., 2007, No. 1420), dated 10th May 2007, a copy of which was laid before this House on 10th May, be approved. [Tony Cunningham.]
That the Value Added Tax (Administration, Collection and Enforcement) Order 2007 (S.I., 2007, No. 1421), dated 10th May 2007, a copy of which was laid before this House on 10th May, be approved. [Tony Cunningham.]
That the draft North/South Co-operation (Implementation Bodies) (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2007, which was laid before this House on 10th May, be approved. [Tony Cunningham.]
That Mr Richard Spring be discharged from the Home Affairs Committee and Patrick Mercer be added. [Rosemary McKenna, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]
That Mr David Gauke be discharged from the Procedure Committee and Mr Roger Gale be added. [Rosemary McKenna, on behalf of the Committee of Selection.]
Mr. George Galloway (Bethnal Green and Bow) (Respect): I have an interest in Pakistan. I hold the highest civil award that the country can bestow, the Hilal-i-Quaid-i-Azam, given to me at the end of the 1980s for my work for the restoration of democracy in Pakistan at the end of an earlier bout of military dictatorship supported at the time by the then British Government. I also hold the second highest civil award in Pakistan, the Hilal-i-Pakistan, given to me for my work on behalf of the rights of the people of Kashmir. Until the military overthrow of democracy in Pakistan, I worked closely with all the democratic parties in the country.
It is worth establishing a time line. General Musharraf, as we used to call him when he seized power in a military coup in 1999before we began to call him President Musharraf, an office to which he appointed himselfcame to power having imprisoned and then exiled the democratic political leaders in the country. In 2002 he held a referendum, an extraordinary one even by the standards of eastern potentates, in which he won 97 per cent. of the vote. The referendum was described by Transparency International as blatantly rigged, and the accompanying parliamentary elections in 2002 were described in the same way by all international and disinterested observers. At that time Musharraf made a promise that he would cease to be chief of the army general staffa promise on which he has reneged.
a wide array of human rights.
The alleged violations included torture, unlawful detention, enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution, unlawful transfer of persons to the United States and other countries, and arbitrary arrests.
That date, September 2006, is important. Two months later, in November 2006just over six months agothe British Prime Minister visited President Musharraf, and this is what he said. He paid tribute to General Musharraf for
symbolising the future for Muslim countries the world over.
symbolising the future for Muslim countries the world over.
Let us see what has happened in Pakistan since the Prime Minister uttered those words. The chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, insisted on hearing cases of missing persons and objecting to the privatisation of a steel mill. I think we know who may have taken over; perhaps new Labour's biggest donor, Mr. Mittal, who has given millions of pounds to the Labour party. The chief justice would have none of it and was told by President Musharraf that he must resign. He refused to resign and, on 16 March, just three months after Prime Minister Blair held Musharraf as symbolising the future for Muslim countries, the chief justice was
supported by demonstrations throughout the country by lawyers, civil society groups and Opposition parties, which were savagely assailed by General Musharrafs armed forces. That included the first of many attacks on independent television stations.
On 26 April, the chief justice made a 26-hour journey by car from Islamabad to Lahore and was welcomed by vast crowds along the way. On 12 May, the Government of Sindh, a coalition Government of Musharrafs king's party and the Muttahida Quami Movement, led from London by a British citizen, Altaf Hussain, to whom I shall return, laid siege to the city. The main thoroughfares were blocked, lawyers and their supporters were attacked outside the Karachi Bar with batons and the MQM militants fired bullets indiscriminately into the peaceful demonstrators. Eleven members of the Pakistan Peoples party were killed, 10 members of the Justice Movement of Imran Khan, with whom I met today and who is meeting the Leader of the Opposition tomorrowI am not sure whether the Minister will find time in his busy schedule to meet Imran Khanwere wounded, as were scores of others. Last week, just seven months after the Prime Minister said that Musharraf symbolised the future for Muslim countries around the world, all independent television stations were closed down and a draconian ordinance on the press was introduced.
As president, Musharraf has arbitrarily amended the Pakistani constitution to strengthen the power of the presidency, marginalize elected representatives, and formalize the role of the army in government
These abuses include extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary arrests.
In The Guardian today, there is a story about how those independent television stations have been taken off the air and journalists fired upon. One television station, Aaj TV, was attacked for six hours in Karachi during the unrest accompanying the chief justice of Pakistan's visit to the city. The report states that a large demonstration was tear-gassed, bullets were fired, batons and rubber bullets were used, television stations were taken off the air and 52 bullets were fired into the television studio of Aaj TV.
has been widely accused of human rights abuses since its foundation two decades ago
In the mid-1990s, the MQM-A was heavily involved
in the widespread political violence that wracked Pakistans southern Sindh province.
Dear Secretary Rice...we have witnessed the spiral of civil unrest and harshly-suppressed protest in Pakistan...We ask that
you publicly call for an immediate end to the violence, and urge the government of Pakistan to commit to holding free and fair elections by the year's end.
spearheaded by bar associations, and supported by moderate political parties and civil society organizations.
The violence in Karachi appears to show disturbing signs of collusion between MQM and government forces
The national interests of the United States and of Pakistan are both served by a speedy restoration of full democracy to Pakistan, and by an end to state-sponsored intimidationoften violentof Pakistani citizens protesting government actions in a legal and peaceful manner. We urge you to make a public appeal to this end, and to raise these matters forcefully in your interactions with Pakistani government officials.
Following my discussions today with Imran Khan, I want to emphasise that my primary concern, and that of most Pakistanis living in Britain, is this: why is Altaf Hussain being allowed to conduct from a sofa in Edgware a terrorist campaign and a campaign of extortion of businesses and citizens in Sindh, and why was he given British citizenship? I would like the Minister to answer the following question tonight, and if he does not have the answer to hand I would like him to write to me to inform me of it: was Altaf Hussain ever refused British citizenship; and, if he was, what changed between that refusal and the granting of citizenship to him? It is extraordinary that in the middle of a so-called war on terror there is such a bloody reign of terror in a major Pakistani cityand there are millions of Pakistanis who are citizens of our country. A terrorist cell is operating from Edgware in the form of the MQM. Every day, Altaf Hussain, a British citizen, addresses his puppets in Karachi, giving them instructions on how they should govern, including how they should handle peaceful demonstrations.
The Minister smiles smugly. He might think that this is a small matter, but if this man, instead of being a stooge of Generalsorry, PresidentMusharraf and of a Government allied to his own, were a hook-handed, glass-eyed ranting mullah, he would at best already be in Belmarsh and at worst he would be on a plane being deported to the country from where he absconded from murder charges.
This man is the godfather of Sindhhe is the godfather of Karachiand he is living high on the hog from the extortion of the citizens of Karachi. I really do not know why the Minister finds this funny. It is a serious matter. The question that must be answered is this: how long will the British Government tolerate this situation that is occurring under their noses? Citizenship was given to Hussain under this Government in 1999, and it is my belief that he was refused citizenship under the previous Administration. I want to know why he was given citizenship, and why he is being allowed to operate with impunity.
Far from symbolising the future for the Muslim countries around the world, General Musharraf crystallises the problem which western Governments have in those countries. We tell people that we are invading countries in order to defend democracy and liberty, but we support dictators who crush democracy and liberty as long as they do so in concordance with western policy on other matters.
The slogan, My enemys enemy is my friend is a deeply flawed one, but the Government do not seem to have learned that. They did not read the novel Frankenstein to the end. Dr. Frankenstein created a monster, but he lost control of it because we cannot control monsters. Across the border in Afghanistan, we helped to create the monster of jihadism and Islamist fundamentalism that became bin Laden and became the Taliban, on the principle that my enemys enemy is my friend. However, Madam Deputy Speaker, as we are finding in Iraq and to some extent in Palestine, our enemys enemy is not always our friend. Sometimes, our enemys enemy is worse than our enemy, and by allying ourselves with the former, making him our friend, we become complicit in the crimes that he commits.
Nobody in the Muslim world can believe that this Government are really interested in democracy and liberty in the Muslim world, so long as they are kissing Colonel Gaddafi in the tent at Sirtethe same Colonel Gaddafi who brought down the Lockerbie airliner, we were told, with the deaths of hundreds of people; the same Colonel Gaddafi whom we said funded the IRAs bombing campaign in Britain through the 70s and 80s; the same Colonel Gaddafi whom we said shot down an English policewoman in a London square. Nobody can believe that Colonel Gaddafi deserves the kisses of the British Prime Minister. Nobody believes that Colonel Gaddafi has changedjust that he has changed sides.
Nobody believes that General Musharraf really is the President of Pakistan, and to treat him as if he is is an insult to the hundreds of millions of Pakistanis living under the iron heel of his dictatorship, not to mention the Pakistanis living as citizens in Britain, many of whom have traditionally voted for the Ministers party. So I hope that the Minister will bear that in mind when he answers this debate. General Musharraf is a tyrant who is about to fall. I urge this Minister not to do as the now Lord Owen did in backing the tyrant Shah of Persia until the last moments before he fell. It was because of western support for tyrants such as the Shah until the last moments that the radicalisation of such as the Islamic revolution in Iran took place.
My last words are these. Pakistan is a nuclear power. After Musharraf falls, no one knows who will replace him. Whose finger will be on the nuclear trigger in Pakistan once Musharraf falls? The Government would be doing Britain the favour that Biden and others are doing America by intervening now to distance themselves from this tyrant and to help the democratic forces come back to power in Pakistan.
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