IT’s sheer racialism. Four British nationals of Pakistan origin committed a crime of sexual exploitation and were sentenced to imprisonment. But the judge McClosky, in his own wisdom, said that after serving the sentence they should be sent back to country of their origin. I wonder if this would have happened to a white man, especially to Europeans. The judge without demur said in his verdict that the convicts’ nationality should be stripped. The ruling by an immigration tribunal subsequently also cleared the way for the Pakistanis to be removed from Britain. They had acquired British citizenship by naturalisation.
According to daily Dawn, they were among nine men of Pakistani and Afghan descent convicted of luring girls as young as 13 into sexual encounters using alcohol and drugs. They were based in Rochdale, in northern England. Five of the dual nationals deprived of their citizenship were British Pakistanis, while two were of dual British and Sudanese nationality. The remaining six were Australian, Iraqi, Russian, Egyptian and Lebanese dual nationals. To this date 10 of the orders have been appealed against. Among the four facing deportation is ringleader Shabir Ahmed, sentenced in 2012 to 22 years in jail. The other three are Adil Khan, Qari Abdul Rauf and Abdul Aziz. Ahmed, who was convicted of rape as well as other charges, remains in custody, while the other three men have been released on licence. Khan, Rauf and Aziz were convicted on conspiracy and trafficking for sexual exploitation charges. Aziz was not convicted of having sexual intercourse with any child.
The judge at the hearing in the upper tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber described their crimes as “shocking, brutal and repulsive”. His decision rejected claims concerning human rights laws and a complaint of “disproportionate interference” with their rights. The case centres on a decision by Prime Minister Theresa May, when she was home secretary, to take away the men’s citizenship “for the public good”. The number of people subject to the power, under which the Home Secretary can deprive dual nationals of their British citizenship if it is deemed to be in the public interest, has increased since coalition govt came to power. The measure was included in 2006 Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Act as a direct result of the July 2005 bombings in which 52 people died and more than 700 were injured. It was used only four times in the following four years, but has been used nine times since last year’s general election.
The five victims of the gang who gave evidence in the 2012 trial were all white, and spoke of being raped, assaulted and traded for sex, being passed from man to man, and sometimes being too drunk to stop the abuses. The men, ranging in age from 22 to 59, used various defences, including claiming the girls were prostitutes. One British MP had demanded that the four men who appeared at the tribunal should be deported “as soon as possible” saying “foreign-born criminals should not be able to hide behind human rights laws to avoid deportation.” This is somewhat similar to what President Donald Trump did soon after taking over. By an executive order, he temporarily blocked people from some Muslim-majority countries from entering the US on visas. This included Green card holders who have right to visit the US without having earned the nationality.
Like in the UK case, Trump’s order did say that his order was to protect the American people from the threat of terrorism or criminal activities. But it doesn’t necessarily do that. Instead, it points to the new president’s serious thinking about putting the Islamophobia that was a central part of his campaign into practice. But Hillary Clinton who challenged him in the Presidential election has replied that they would defend the constitution of America. It does not debar anybody because America itself is a country of immigrants. The very discussion on stripping nationality of a country’s citizen is ominous. By declaring anybody anti-national you can send him back to the country he once belonged. This will be very harsh on journalists and authors. They utilize the freedom of expression to run down their own country or politicians.
This is happening in India itself. Take the case of an online editor of a publication is facing the wrath of the Election Commission after the newspaper published the exit poll results after the first phase of election in UP. As many as 15 FIRs have been filed against the publication. Some time ago, even the owner of a national channel was arraigned by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry when he refused to tender an apology for what channel had broadcast.
Some time ago, the ministry also defended the censorship. The minister explained that government had only one channel while the private sector had several. Therefore, the ministry had every right to use the official channel to put across the government point of view. I wish that this prerogative is used to describe the plight of dalits or the minorities. But since the upper casts dominate the media, there is hardly any mention of the atrocities committed against the marginalized.
When it comes to India, at least there is no racialism. The attackers on Parliament House and on Mumbai were tried by various courts and eventually sentenced. The convicts were Muslims. The emphasis on religion is itself bad. Saudi Arabia which is a Muslim country prefers Muslims to be in their midst. It is another story that they prefer Indian Muslims to Pakistani Muslims. Even the policeman there lets go the Muslims from India for any traffic violation while the Pakistanis are singled out for punishment. The UK government will be blamed for racial discrimination if the order of the judge to send the convicts to their country of origin. Yet it must be admitted that racial discrimination is increasingly taking the centre of stage in the UK.
—The writer is a veteran Indian journalist, syndicated columnist, human rights activist and author.