Monday, November 29, 1999

Pakistanis want British MP to remove terror stigma

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The rise of a Pakistani-born Briton to become the first Muslim woman named in a British cabinet has given Pakistan something to cheer after weeks of introspection and blame over the failed New York bombing.Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative Party's chairwoman, has been named minister without portfolio by Prime Minister David Cameron in his new coalition government.In Pakistan, a country where many fear they are being stigmatised as "terrorists", people are jubilant over her appointment.Born into a modest family which migrated from Pakistan's central town of Gujjar Khan to Britain in the 1960s, Warsi has been involved in politics since her college days.Newspapers prominently published photos of Warsi standing in front of 10 Downing Street and television channels interviewed her proud relatives and family friends in Gujjar Khan.Warsi runs five vocational training centres for orphaned girls in villages near Gujjar Khan through a women's charity. Cameron visited Gujjar Khan with her in 2008."We feel proud that she is from us," said Hina Shaukat, a student in a vocational training centre in Bewal village near Gujjar Khan. Eight girls sat around her, busily sewing.Warsi's appointment could not come at a better time for Pakistanis distressed by the arrest of Faisal Shahzad, 30, a Pakistan-born U.S. citizen accused by U.S. officials of driving an explosives-laden car into New York's Times Square on May 1.Shahzad's case is not the first linking Islamists in the West to Pakistan. British authorities have said most of the al Qaeda plots against Britain are rooted in Pakistan.Three of the four Islamists who carried out suicide bombings on London's transport network in 2005, killing 52 people, were also of Pakistani origin."There is an urgent need to find out why terrorists of all sorts in every nook and corner of the world are either Pakistanis or of Pakistani origin," the liberal Daily Times wrote.Pakistan has been a breeding ground for militancy since the late 1970s, when it supported the U.S.-backed fight against the Soviet invasion.Its lawless ethnic Pashtun tribal belt on the Afghan border has become the global hub of Islamist militancy after thousands of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters fled the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan.Warsi's appointment has come as a national morale booster."At a time when there is an impression all over the world that all terrorism emanates from Pakistan, Sayeeda Warsi's appointment is like a breath of fresh air," said Warsi's cousin, Nusrat Mubashar."If some people are involved in terrorism, it does not mean that every Pakistani child is a terrorist," Mubashar said.(Editing by Chris Allbritton and Paul Tait)(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see:
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