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Pakistan remains a threat to UK’s national security

Murtaza Ali Shah Thursday, March 28, 2013
From Print Edition

LONDON: Terror threat emanating from Pakistan remains a danger to Britain’s national security, the head of Britain’s counter-terrorism strategy says.

In an exclusive interview with Jang Group of Newspapers, Charles Farr, director general of the Office of Security and Counter-Terrorism, said that the threat from Pakistan mainly comes from the tribal areas along the Afghan border. He said that although Al-Qaida is weakened and depleted in numbers and capability but it continues to operate from this region and still has the capability to conduct terrorist attacks in the UK and other countries.

Farr said that Britain was getting cooperation from all Pakistani agencies “in the investigation for terrorism going back to 07/07 and even before that”.

“We recognise the value of that cooperation and we also recognise that lots of members of Pakistani security forces have been killed in this fight. We have to accept that and we do. We also recognise that Pakistani security organisations have to do many things and collaborating with us is one of them and we have to be reasonable about that.”

He said that Britain’s security establishment expects that the new government - after the May 11 election - will collaborate with Britain in all areas of counter-terrorism. “Its not just intelligence sharing, it has to be about prosecution, training of the police forces, forensic skills, counter terrorism, protective security and other areas. Our passionate belief is that successful counter-terrorism must include all those things, just not detaining those people. We are very pleased with the collaboration so far but we would like to do more because Pakistan is very important to us and our interests are identical and that’s our passionate view. We would like to talk to the new govt soon after May 11.”

He revealed that threat to Britain from Pakistan-based militant groups comes not only from Al-Qaida but lots of groups including Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and banned militant organisations inducing from “some settled areas of Karachi”.

“We have to worry about these groups particularly in this country. So many people in this country have contacts in Pakistan. Al-Qaida is not finished; Al-Zawahiri is out there too. We also have significant domestic threat to deal with also. We are clearly concerned about the level of threat.”

Charles Farr said that Britons continue to travel to Af-Pak border areas to join Al-Qaida and other militant groups to receive training. Some of these Britons, he said, stay in Pakistan and fight and some return to the UK, radicalised and prepared to strike.

Farr spoke as Britain unveiled its annual report on Tuesday titled “CONTEST - The United Kingdom’s Strategy for Countering Terrorism”. He said that there was a time when threat mainly came from Afghanistan-Pakistan areas but that was not the case any more as not only the threat comes from other areas of Pakistan but also its scope globally has become very significant with countries such as Yemen, Syria, Iraq and various regions of African countries joining the spots where Al-Qaida and its affiliated groups have become powerful.

He said that the UK was involved in a wide range of capacity building projects such as supporting the government to reforming the legal process, crime scene management, evidence collection through prosecutor training and changes in legislation. He said this programme now receives funding from other world powers as well as the European Union.

He said Pakistani security organisations do a lot of work in arresting the terrorists but the prosecution system is so weak that these terrorists are not prosecuted in the end. “We were asked by the government, the judiciary and General Kayani to do this programme and we are very pleased with the progress of this programme. Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and opposition parties have been supportive. Punjab government has particularly supported us, we are doing a lot of work in Punjab but we would like to increase the scale of this work. It should enable Pakistan not just to stop terrorist attacks but also convict them. That’s the long term solution to stop terrorism, from the crime scene management to successful convictions.”

He recalled how the crime scene was washed after Benazir Bhutto was assassinated and the whole evidence from the scene disappeared. He said Britain was providing training to prosecutors to understand what evidence may be needed and how to collect it.

He said unfortunately Pakistan doesn’t have a counter-terrorism strategy in place like Britain has in the form of CONTEST and so far the National Counter Terrorism Authority has failed to formulate a comprehensive strategy.

He said Britain was interested in radical groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which play a key role in the ideological radicalisation of youth. “Many of these groups operate in Pakistan and UK. We want to be able to challenge them. Pakistan is often an aspect of this work. The people linked with these groups have either come from Pakistan or working with these groups from here into Pakistan.”

The annual report reveals that more than 500 would-be terrorists have received support through a £3 million-a-year government scheme designed to protect people at risk from radicalisation.

The programme - known as Channel - identifies people at risk of being drawn into terrorism and develops a support plan for the vulnerable individuals concerned.

Nearly 2,500 people - mainly of Pakistani origin - were referred to Channel between January 2007 and December 2012, of whom about 500 were offered support. The report also revealed that Al-Qaida affiliates including the Taliban have pocketed 60 million US dollars (£40 million) in kidnapping ransom payments since 2008.

There were 1,274 people referred to the Channel programme between January 2011 and December 2012, of whom 243 people received support.

There were 245 terrorism-related arrests in 2012 and many successful prosecutions. Mr Farr told this correspondent that most of the people convicted or under-prosecution had some connection with Pakistan.


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