There’s a striking simultaneity about events in Britain and Pakistan in the last 24 hours. Yesterday in Pakistan, Imran Khan, current Chancellor of the University of Bradford, former captain of the Pakistan cricket team - one of the finest all-rounders the game has ever produced - and a graduate of Oxford University, attended a protest rally against the imposition of emergency rule by US-supported authoritarian military dictator President Musharraf. Within minutes of appearing Khan was seized by religious students and handed over to the police who charged him under anti-terrorism legislation. Penalties under the act include life imprisonment and death.
Yesterday in New Labour’s Britain, as the Governor of the Bank of England warned of increasing threats to the economyfrom the global financial crisis, Gordon Brown introduced new measures to counter the perceived threat of terrorism. These include hardening the physical protection for public buildings, offering guidance to those operating public buildings, strengthening regional counter terrorism units, and “training neighbourhood police teams to deal with radicalisation in their local communities”. In addition, a single senior judge has been nominated to manage all terrorism cases, whilst a single senior lead prosecutor will be responsible for cases relating to “inciting violent extremism”. Musharraf has cited “judicial activism” – opposition from the judiciary - amongst his reasons for locking up all political opponents. It certainly looks as through Brown is side-stepping any future judicial opposition in the UK by selecting those who can be trusted to toe the line.
A major, nationwide “hearts and minds” campaign of propaganda emphasising “our shared values” will be launched in every community through schools, colleges, mosques and sports facilities, amongst faith groups and criminalised youth, in fact anywhere where people might be influenced by “ideologues” proposing radical change. After ten years with personal responsibility for the British economy, it is clear that Brown shares his values with his financial friends in the City of London, so “updated advice for universities on how to deal with extremism on the campus” is highly likely to include the identification of students seeking changes to the status quo, and guidance on neutralising them and rooting them out.
Also yesterday contracts were issued for the intelligence infrastructure involving biometric technology and shared databases, to support the UK Border Agency which will have 25,000 staff, uniting passport control, and customs with new powers of arrest and detention. Together with a new legislative assault on the rights to privacy and confidentiality, these measures will enable a huge range of police and other agencies to share up to 90 separate pieces of information on all cross-border travellers. “Airline liaison officers” based abroad will have new powers to cancel visas.
As the global recession begins to hit hard, millions will be radicalised as they lose their jobs and homes. New Labour is in the forefront of governments preparing and implementing a wide range of authoritarian measures to deal not just with suspected terrorists, but all those opposed to the capitalist corporations and the consequences of globalisation. No wonder the government’s response to Musharraf’s suspension of the constitution and the removal of Pakistan’s top judges has been muted.