Monday, May 10, 2010

The British General Election, 6 May 2010

Why I welcome a hung Parliament

Election time in the UK can be a bit of a surreal experience for Pakistanis with entitlement to vote in British elections. A part of the problem is the difficulty of identifying with the politics of a country where they are constantly being suspected of being “extremists” or, worse, “terrorists”.  For Pakistanis, a feeling of unease in this unfriendly environment is inevitable, and the desire to see their grossly twisted image changed is correspondingly very strong. A first step in that direction would be a change in the unfair policies of successive British administrations.

The injustice of British policies towards Muslims in general, and towards Pakistanis in particular, can be grasped by considering the steps that successive British governments have taken in relation to Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The invasion of Iraq in 2003, in which the British government played a key role, was preceded by a long campaign of disinformation and deliberate deception by Labour Party’s Tony Blair, he of the “Bush’s poodle” fame. Eventually, the  Conservative Party was persuaded to back his controversial decision to line up some 45,000 British troops behind the USA’s 250,000-strong invasion force. It was left to the  Liberal Democrats, the third largest political grouping in the UK, to oppose Blair’s ingratiating support of the USA’s power crazed neoconservatives in the Republican government, hell bent on controlling the oil and gas of the Middle East, and the political governments of that region. It is a sad fact that there exist politicians in the West who consider the destruction of Iraq, and the mass murder of Iraqis, a price worth paying for the control they now exercise over Iraq.

Subsequently, the British government decided to contribute troops to Afghanistan to assist the Americans in their occupation of that country. The lame excuse on this occasion was that the security of British citizens was at risk if such military action were not taken. No attempt has been made to offer credible evidence to the British public in support of this dubious theory, which has resulted in the hell of Iraq being re-created in Afghanistan. Many people believe that the government’s actions have actually resulted in antagonising the Muslim world and increasing the risk of attack on British citizens. The suspected underlying reasons for invading Afghanistan - the control of natural resources of Central Asia - have almost become irrelevant as new realities and new facts are created as a result of Afghan resistance to foreign occupation. The military action in Afghanistan is backed by the Conservatives and also, unfortunately, by the Liberal Democrats. However, the latter’s policy is to reach a political settlement with moderate elements in the Afghan Resistance against foreign occupation, which would enable British troops to be brought back home. The two major political parties, Labour and the Conservatives, favour continued presence of British troops in Afghanistan until “victory” is achieved.

Bogged down in Afghanistan, and unable to see a way out, the policy makers in the USA administration came up with a brilliant idea: extend the war into Pakistan and get the Pakistan Army to perform much of their dirty work on the ground while missiles are rained down on Pakistanis sympathetic to Afghan Resistance. The missiles are fired from unmanned aerial vehicles, the so-called UAVs or “drones”, remotely operated by Americans living in safety hundreds or, possibly, thousands of miles away, playing a deadly computer game with living human beings. The USA has been able to implement its inhuman policies in Pakistan because, with useful support from the British government, it has been able to set up a false façade of “legitimate government” in Pakistan, headed by corrupt and immoral military and civilian rulers such as Musharraf and Zardari.

On the face of it Pakistan is being gradually reduced to the same fate as has been visited upon Iraq and Afghanistan. There is, however, a crucial difference: Pakistan is a nuclear state and the conspiring western powers need to tread with caution. In addition, Pakistan’s independent Judiciary and the Media constitute a big hurdle in the way of the conspiring western powers. Nonetheless, the immensely powerful USA/British propaganda machine, backed up with malicious Indian propaganda, has succeeded in blackening the image of Pakistan. This has reduced people of Pakistan origin living in the UK to issuing pathetic apologies for the real and imagined sins of commission and omission that the American-British propaganda has charged the Pakistani nation with.

As one originating from Pakistan, I detest the policies of the Conservative and Labour parties towards Muslim countries and towards Pakistan. Since 2001 more than 3 million Muslims are estimated to have been killed by the policies and inhuman actions of western politicians. The Holocaust, Hitler’s purge of the Jews in the nineteen forties, is said to have claimed 6 million lives. As Muslim deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan  relentlessly climb towards that  figure, there appears to be deathly silence as this crime against humanity is played out on the world stage as a piece of macabre theatre.

As a helpless witness of this gory episode in human history I, as a so-called British Pakistani, cast my vote in this month’s  British General Election in favour of Liberal Democrats. This, in my opinion, is one political party which is still recognisably human, its features not yet distorted by the insane desire for power. Thankfully, the election has resulted in a balanced Parliament – which the political pundits call “hung Parliament” – where no single political party enjoys an absolute majority.  As the party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, the Conservative Party will need the support of Liberal Democrats if it is to form the next government. It is an official policy of Liberal Democrats to improve the current unfair electoral system, which can result in a party with little more than one-third of the electoral vote ending up with a large majority in the House of Commons. Currently, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats are deep in negotiations to work out a deal under which the latter will support a government headed by the Conservative leader, David Cameron, as Prime Minister. It is too early to say how the negotiations will pan out. However, I would be very surprised if the Liberal Democrats agreed to water down too much their demand for a system of proportional representation in Parliament, under which the composition of members in the House of Commons would be a fair reflection of the share of votes claimed by the various parties in a general election.

The current ‘first-past-the-post’ electoral system heavily favours the two largest political parties, Labour and the Conservatives. The party forming the government may only have the support of a little over a third of the electorate but it can end up with a disproportionately large number of members in the House of Commons. This enables an essentially minority government to ride roughshod over the opinions of large sections of the population.

Let me illustrate this by means of some statistics relating to this month’s general election. The House of Commons in the British Parliament has 650 seats. The number of seats won by each of the three largest political parties, and the share of the electoral vote, were as follows:

Conservatives : 307 seats (47% of the 650 seats); 36% of votes cast.

Labour :  258 seats (40% of the 650 seats); 29% of votes cast.

Liberal Democrats: 57 seats (9% of the 650 seats); 23% of votes cast.

Because of their financial muscle and slick organisations, the two largest political parties have won a much higher percentage of parliamentary seats compared to their share of the electoral vote. The Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, won only 9% of seats in Parliament while their share of the total vote was 23%. Little wonder that the Liberal Democrats favour a system of Proportional Representation in Parliament, which would give them substantially more members in Parliament than they do under the current “winner takes all” system. Not surprisingly, Labour and the Conservatives are not keen on the idea of a change in electoral voting to a PR system.


Chemixal said...

I too voted for Lib Dem. As I live in a dead cert. Tory constituency, I did so knowing my vote would count for absolutely nothing. Which is a disgrace.

Iraq was a vicious, completely unnecessary war and as a Briton I will always be ashamed of what the country did, led by that idiot, Tony Blair.

But I think the moral boundaries are a bit more blurred when it comes to Afghanistan. That country was invaded after it's Government had appeared to openly support the organisation responsible for 9/11. The Americans justification (in their eyes, anyway) to invade.

But now, a decade on whats not justifiable is how much the Afghani population is suffering from a long, drawn out war.

Maybe if the Iraq war had never happened and the US military turned it's full might on Afghanistan the war would be over. Maybe if the UK government hadn't so pathetically dithered over equipment and troops the war would be over, and perhaps if Pakistan had cooperated and helped push the Taliban & al qaeda from it's own regions the war would be over and it would have not suffer the ignominy of US drone attacks.

But whether or not British troops in Afghanistan actually help the security situation is another story entirely. I don't really think so. The 7/7 bombings were carried out by British muslims. Perhaps if we had spent half our effort we spend on wars on integrating Muslims into British society we wouldn't have had this mess.

Sakib Ahmad said...

It was the same in my constituency! We have had a Tory MP since the war and the LibDem candidate stood no chance. Coming second and reducing the Tory majority was a creditable performance.

You mention an “organisation responsible for 9/11”. I am not aware of any legal action ever having been taken against any organisation accused of carrying out the 9/11 atrocity. I have heard of numerous individuals having being tortured and incarcerated in inhuman conditions – the name Guantanamo comes to mind – but there has been no successful prosecution. Why not? Vague accusations by the American government are no substitute for trying people like Bin Laden in a court of law. Remember that he has never been formally charged by the Americans and there is absolutely no intention of trying him in a court of law. As the Americans would say, go figure!

The odd thing about the 9/11 incident is that the story put about by the USA government does NOT fit the facts. This is believed to be the principal reason why the Americans were in such a hurry to destroy all evidence of the tragedy and clear away the rubble of the buildings and the remains of the aircraft without allowing independent investigators a look-in. The convoluted “conspiracy theory” put together by the USA government has been widely discredited. Numerous books have been written and there are many websites devoted to the mystery of 9/11. Here is a small sample:

“9/11 Revealed” by Ian Henshall & Rowland Morgan

“The New Pearl Harbour Revisited: 9/11, the Cover-up and the Expose” by David Ray Griffin

A fact which has been suppressed by the USA government is that shortly after the 9/11 atrocity the Taliban government of Afghanistan offered up Bin Laden for trial in a neutral country. The offer was rejected by the Americans who wanted the Afghan government to hand over Bin Laden to them without demur. All the signs are that the Bush administration was frantically trying to suppress the truth about 9/11 and rejected the offer – because an open trial of Bin Laden would have revealed its lies and false claims.

In my opinion the invasion of Afghanistan is every bit as immoral as Iraq’s.

Sakib Ahmad said...

The sheer duplicity and chicanery to which the American politicians can sink is exemplified by the story of the 'terrorist Faisal Shahzad". The truth behind this may never be known as the USA politicians never offer any proof - if you do not accept their lies and propaganda at face value then brace up for condemnation as "terrorist sympathisers"!

Below is an extract from a comment I have left at another blog:

As for the unfortunate Faisal Shahzad, this story is the biggest political joke of the moment – and it shows the depths to which the Americans can sink to weave conspiracy theories about Pakistan. Pakistan’s Urdu language press has dealt with the story with the contempt it deserves. A large part of the English language press, populated as it is with American lackeys, has churned out the usual self-deprecating platitudes. Not so our self-respecting journalists writing in the English press. The hammer blow from ‘The Nation’ you would expect. Here is a subtle jibe at the Americans by Dr Farrukh Saleem:

Fischer said...

Whatever you believe about 9/11 remember one fact is that it was an act of terrorism commited by people trying to drive a wedge between two cultures. Bin Laden or Bush, who cares. Don't let them win

Sakib Ahmad said...

Wise words, Fischer. I am with you.

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