Wednesday, 16 June 2010

War in Iraq was a mistake, Anas Sarwar, MP

War in Iraq was a mistake, MP Anas Sarwar

Dr. Mozammel Haque

The decision to go to war in Iraq is a mistake. Some politicians realised as early as 2003 that the war in Iraq is not a proper decision. “No people are perfect; no political party is perfect; and no government is perfect. Human beings make mistakes; political parties make mistakes; government makes mistakes. And I would say there is no bigger mistake by our previous Labour government than the war in Iraq. I opposed at that time; I protested at that time and I was against the war in Iraq and I disagreed on the decision of going to war in Iraq,” observed Anas Sarwar, in an exclusive interview with me.

Election on the Labour Party Leadership will be held very soon. Sarwar said, “I think by recognising that mistake we must make sure that we learn from that mistakes and we must make sure that it must not happen again. I think all our candidates should agree on that it was a wrong decision as I always said it was and that if we are going to move on as a political party and as a country everybody should accept that mistake and make sure that we learn the lesson that it should not happen in future.”

At around half-passed two in the afternoon of Monday, the 24th of May, 2010, some of the newly elected Members of the House of Commons took oath of allegiance to the Queen. Among them, there were Anas Sarwar, MP from the Glasgow Central, Shabana Mahmood, MP from the Birmingham Ladywood and Rushanara Ali, MP from the Bethnal Green & Bow constituency. They took oath on the Qur’an. MP Anas Sarwar made it a point to place his right hand on the Qur’an Shareef and started with saying Bismillah Ar-Rahman Ar-Rahim.

In front of MP Anas Sarwar were two extremely talented newly elected MPs, Shabana Mahmood from Birmingham Ladywood and Rushanara Ali of Bethnal Green and Bow. “One of the most proudest thing I would say that seeing too extremely talented sisters with headscarves and taking an oath on the Qur’an I must say it was incredibly happy moment for me and a pride moment for our country,” told me newly elected MP Anas Sarwar in an interview at the Portcullis House, Westminster, after the oath-taking ceremony.

Joyous and difficult moments
Sarwar won the elections from the Glasgow Central constituency. He not only increased the majority from 10,000 but also increased the turnout by 8 per cent. Speaking about his reaction after hearing his victory at the elections, Sarwar said, “There was personal joy and obviously joy for my hard team work which gave this result at Glasgow. It is also joyous seeing Shabana, Rushanara Sadiq, Khalid being elected and re-elected but at the same time there was some difficult moment that we knew that it was not going to be a very best of night for the Labour Party and we were sad to lose very talented people like Shahid Malik.”

Humanitarian crisis in Gaza
The world peace is the lost cow of humanity. Every political leader consciously or unconsciously realise that peace cannot be achieved in this world without peace in the Middle East. I wanted to know what newly elected Member of Parliament thinks about Palestine. “I first visited Palestine when I was just 12 years of age and I again visited in 2008 and I actually spent days in Gaza Strip. The situation is simply unacceptable. You have humanitarian crisis; you have economic crisis and you have political crisis. The humanitarian crisis is: 70% of the population are unemployed; 80% of the population is eating purely on UN Food programmes and two-third of the essential medicines that is sent by the World Health Organisations for the people of Gaza,” said Sarwar about the situation in Palestine. The urgent need of the humanity is not political rhetoric but “the end of the sieze and to open the tunnel to the Gaza Strip”, he said.

Destruction of infrastructure
People are talking about an independent Palestinian state. But an independent Palestinian state will only be viable when economic crisis will be solved. Every infrastructure of the Palestinians has been destroyed. Sarwar said, “Every infrastructure of the Palestinians whether it is the water lines, sewerage lines, electricity lines, phone lines are simply destroyed by the Israeli government and its forces. And if we are serious about making independent Palestinian state we must make investment, on the infrastructure but at the same time investing on the infrastructure; and we need to take young people forward to the next generation.”

Commitment for an Independent Palestinian state
Anas Sarwar said that he himself has been committed. He also mentioned that he is delighted that the former Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who emphasized about this commitment. David Miliband said that we want an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as capital with the right of return for the refugees and has to have on the pre-1967 borders, mentioned MP Sarwar.

“My promise to the people is: I will campaign tirelessly along with Muslim MPs and non-Muslim MPs and more importantly with the people of this country to recognise the justice is happening in the region and to make sure we can make that full independence a reality,” said Sarwar and added, “Until we have got justice in that region we could not get peace. And that is my commitment, my faith of just resolution for Palestinians.”

Sarwar on Afghanistan
Recently, the Foreign Secretary William Hague has visited Afghanistan and both the Foreign Secretary and the Defence Secretary, Liam Fox, was talking about Afghanistan. I wanted to know what his comment on the British troops in Afghanistan is. Sarwar was in favour of withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan “as soon as practical and possible”. “We have to make sure that we are helping to rebuild Afghanistan and make Afghanistan a prosperous state and not play a negative role there. I would not say that we should immediately withdraw troops from Afghanistan. I would say as soon as practically possible leaving the Afghans to determine their own future exactly the same way as we are calling for the self-determination of the Palestinian people; exactly we are calling for the self-determination of the people of Kashmir. We also should recognise that it is up to the Afghan people to determine their own future.”

About Pakistan
Anas Sarwar was born and bred in Glasgow. He mentioned himself as a “Glasgow boy”; and he is “proud to be British”. But at the same time he said that I love Pakistan and I am proud that my mother country is Pakistan and I am proud that Pakistan where my heritage lies. The biggest power that the Pakistan has is its people; ex-Pakistanis never forgot Pakistan; they never lost of love for Pakistan and that is emphasized through charity and through links that are maintained with Pakistan.”

But at the same time Sarwar mentioned that we have to recognise that there are challenges for Pakistan. “In Pakistan, unfortunately, rich becomes richer and poor becomes poorer. This is simply unacceptable in the 21st century. Anybody in any country to be queuing for sugar, flour, wheat, bread or anything else; it is simply unacceptable,” said Sarwar.

Expatriate Pakistanis or the people of Pakistani heritage are leading in science, medicine, technology, IT and in every sector of life, mentioned Sarwar and said, “I think we need to put our heads together and we need to be working together . And what we can do here together obviously continue in the international world make sure investing in health, education programme and in Pakistan and make sure health to promote, better business links between the Pakistanis and British communities and making sure holding respect both for people of Pakistan and also Britain respect Pakistan and the best way of doing that is to as a Pakistanis because make no mistake; no government in this country would dare doing mischief in Pakistan. British do still have love for Pakistan.”

Glasgow City Council
Sarwar also mentioned about his own city. He said, “I am proud of my own city, the Glasgow City Council, which is under Labour administration, introduces and helps to double one double two service and in Pakistan emergency service.”

As I was conducting the interview with him, Parliamentarian Sarwar mentioned about “a delegation went from the Glasgow City Council to Pakistan looking at a recycling project, looking at a sewerage project, looking at infrastructure project, and looking at projects fast travel. We have to support public transport. I think we have lot of things to learn. British people have lot to learn from Pakistan and Pakistan will learn lots from Britain and we have to strengthen this relationship over the time and that is something which I promise I would to do.”

Faith School
Speaking about faith schools, Sarwar said, “I have no opposition to faith schools. I think it is acceptable if you have Catholic schools in UK, if you have Jewish schools in UK; then you have every right to have Muslim schools in the UK also. It is less significant what the title the school has; it is less about the faith the school comes from; what is more important is what the schools are teaching to the kids. Because the less our children have education, we can’t break those statistics or those cycles of underachievement I mentioned.”

Speaking about spending cuts and imposition of new tax, Sarwar mentioned that we have accepted that some cuts have to be made. I think we have to wait and see what happens with this current government. We, in the Labour benches, we will give the strong opposition to make sure that the investment in education and health and other key frontline services will continue.”

Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in the facebook
Sarwar said, “It is, first of all, completely unacceptable that anybody’s faith to be discredited or ridiculed in any way and I think the defamation and denigration of our beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) is unacceptable. But at the same time, it is for the Muslims not only in this country but in the entire world to stop to be reactive. Those people who instigate Islamophobia want us to be hyper-proactive reaction. We have every right to be sensitive, but we should be reactive with sense and measured manner and we have to ensure that we are above reactionary. I think our approach should be measured approach, should be organisational approach.”

Ban on Burkha and headscarves
Europe wants to ban burkha, hijab and headscarves. Britain is the only country which protected the women’s rights to wear Hijab. “We are proud of UK. We have protected the Hijab,” said Sarwar and mentioned about those countries which want to ban, “They think Muslims are threat to them. I think it is important that we should show that actually we are not threat to Europe, we are not threat to the West; Muslims are friends of Europe, friends of West and we are going to make friends. I think the best advice I will say to the people who are most worried is to engage in the system; engage in the process and through democratic means.”

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