March 2001 News

UK terror list names Lashkar, Harkat

1 March 2001
The Asian Age
Nabanita Sircar

London: Five organisations connected with terrorism in India are among the 21 recommended for proscription under Britain’s new Terrorism Act, 2000, which came into effect on February 19. The Harkat-ul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Babbar Khalsa International and International Sikh Youth Federation are listed in a draft order laid before the British Parliament on Wednesday by home secretary Jack Straw. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and Al-Qa’ida are also included in the list of proscribed organisations in Schedule 2 to the act, which earlier had 14 Irish organisations. The five organisations affecting India have been raising considerable funds and recruiting volunteers from Britain for militant activities. India’s deputy high commissioner to Britain H.S. Puri said the proscription of these groups shows that “India’s protestations have been taken on board by the UK.” The home office made it clear that the list does not target Muslims. Mr Straw said, “The Terrorism Act is an important legislation which brings our provisions into line with the European Convention for Human Rights and ensures that we are better able to deal with the serious threats which terrorism poses.” Among the 21 groups Mr Straw listed, 16 are Islamic organisations from Kashmir, Turkey and West Asia, and three of them are based in Pakistan. Mr Charles Clarke, a home office minister, said, “We deeply respect the contribution which the Muslim community makes to the life of this country. We are concerned on the other hand to isolate and attack international terrorist organisations, and that is why we have named the organisations we have. We make no presumption that Muslim organisations are more or less likely to be terrorist organisations.” Under each group listed, evidence of their activities, attacks and aims have also been made known. It states that the Harkat-ul Mujahideen, earlier known as Harkat-ul Ansar, “seeks independence for Indian-administered Kashmir” and mentions the cases of the kidnapping of Western tourists in Delhi and Kashmir in 1994 and 1995 and the Indian Airlines hijack in 1999. It states that the aim of the JeM is to seek “the ‘liberation’ of Kashmir from Indian control as well as the ‘destruction’ of America and India. JeM has a stated objective of unifying various Kashmiri militant groups.” Set up in 1999 by Maulana Masood Azhar after his release from a Srinagar jail, the group has been involved in several attacks. The order states that LeT “seeks independence for Kashmir and the creation of an Islamic state using violent means.” Set up in 1993, LeT “has a long history of mounting attacks against Indian security forces in Kashmir.” For the ISYF, it points at the recent case of Mukhtiar and Paramjit Singh, which demonstrate “that UK-based extremists involve themselves in terrorist support activities.” The draft order is expected to be debated in Parliament in the coming weeks. Sources reveal the detailed list leaves very little room for criticism against it. For India, which has been urging Britain to crack down on terrorist groups creating havoc in Kashmir, this is welcome news. Talks on terrorism have reportedly ranked high in discussions between Union home minister L.K. Advani and British home secretary Jack Straw, both during Mr Advani’s visit to the UK last year followed by Mr Straw’s visit to India in September. But Mr Clarke denied that governments with whom Britain had friendly relations, such as India, Turkey or Saudi Arabia, had any influence on which groups were included. The draft order is being seen as Britain’s commitment to fight terrorism and a signal that Britain will no longer be a “safe haven” for terrorists. Mr Straw said, “The UK has no intention of becoming a base for terrorists and their supporters, nor see it flourish abroad, and we will take every legal action to prevent this.” But some fear a rise in terrorist activities following the ban. The secretary of state has the power to proscribe any organisation he believes “is concerned in terrorism.” Once the proscription of these organisation take effect, any organisation or person affected by it can make an application to the home secretary for deproscription. If the application is refused, an appeal can be made to a tribunal, the Proscribed Organisations Appeal Commission.

 

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