Britain’s Labour Party suspended Lord Nazir Ahmed after a report on Sunday quoted him as offering £10 million ($15.9 million) for the capture and trial of UK and US leaders in retaliation to the $10 million offered by the US for the capture and trial of religious leader Hafiz Saeed.
“If these comments are accurate we utterly condemn these remarks which are totally unacceptable … The international community is rightly doing all in its power to seek justice for the victims of the Mumbai bombings and halt terrorism,” a Labour party spokesperson said, referring to the arrest of Hafiz Saeed, who is alleged to have masterminded the Mumbai attacks.
“We have suspended Lord Ahmed pending investigation,” she said.
Lord Nazir denied passing these remarks immediately. His denial was partially accurate, given that he never mentioned the name of current US President Barack Obama or the word “bounty”, as the The Express Tribune had reported. Instead, he made an “offer” for bringing to justice former US president George W Bush and former UK prime minister Tony Blair for what he termed to be their war crimes.
Likening the two cases, he said that if the reward for Saeed was ok, then his offer for Bush and Blair was also ok.
Whether his suspension was for mentioning President Obama’s name, or the nature of the comments itself is unclear.
Speaking at an event in Haripur on Friday, the British parliamentarian of Kashmiri origin had offered the incentive in response to a US reward for information leading to the capture of Hafiz Saeed. Lord Nazir even added that he would arrange the “offer” at any cost even if he was left with the option of selling all his personal assets, including his house, or even begging in Haripur and across Pakistan for the funds.
The comments did not sit well with his party back home.
Lord Ahmed immediately denied having passed the comments.
“I did not offer a bounty. I said that there have been war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and those people who have got strong allegations against them – George W Bush and Tony Blair have been involved in illegal wars and should be brought to justice,” he said from Pakistan.
“If the Labour Party wants to suspend me I will deal with the Labour Party. They will have to give me some evidence,” he added.
Meanwhile, following Lord Ahmed’s denial, The Express Tribune’s reporter, who covered the story in Haripur, said he mistakenly wrote the name of current US President Obama – and clarified that the offer was for Bush and Blair.
He said that he and other journalists present on that occasion have recordings of Lord Nazir’s statement, adding that some TV channels and at least four Urdu newspapers, including a Karachi-based daily, had also run the comments – but obviously they did not have Obama’s name.
He disclosed that, following the news of the suspension of Lord Ahmed’s Labour membership, he had been receiving phone calls from unknown people, who were pressurising him and questioning the veracity of the report.
(Wires with additional input by News Desk)
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.