In Washington on 21 September 2016, Congressman Ted Poe, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism and Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, introduced petition H.R.6069, asking the US Administration to declare Pakistan a State Sponsor of Terrorism. This plus the fact that in 1993 Masood Azhar, founder and leader of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, delivered a Friday sermon at the Madina Mosque in east London, inspired a UK permanent resident to create a similar online petition to UK’s Government “To Strongly Condemn Pakistan for Providing Safe Haven for Terrorists”.

The 25 September petition states that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence has often been accused of playing a role in major terrorist attacks across the world including the 11 September 2001 attacks in the United States, terrorism in Kashmir, Indian Parliament attack and the Mumbai terror attacks. It has been noted by many that several militant and criminal groups are backed by senior officers in the Pakistani army and the country’s ISI intelligence establishment. Professor Daniel Byman (Head of Security Studies Program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service with a concurrent appointment with the Georgetown Department of Government and Senior Fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution) says Pakistan is probably today’s most active sponsor of global terrorism.

Originally, the petitioner created the petition using words similar to the US petition, to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of terrorism. But it was rejected by the UK Petitions Committee: “We rejected the petition you created ‘We ask Her Majesty’s Government to declare Pakistan a state sponsor of Terrorism’ as it was not clear what the petition was asking the UK Government or Parliament to do.” “State Sponsors of Terrorism” is a designation used only by the Department of State in the United States of America. This designation is not used by the UK Government.  A recommendation was given to start a new petition calling on the UK Government to take a specific action to address the petitioner’s concerns about Pakistan. The petitioner observed several other similar petitions rejected by the Petitions Committee and recognised the words “state sponsor of terrorism” were unacceptable. He then changed the wording to what it is shown on the petition now “To strongly condemn…”, which was approved immediately by the Petitions Committee and the petition went live on the evening of 29 September.

Read Also: India is reliable, Pak supports terror: US Congressman

The petitioner told this reporter, “I have signed online petitions in the past; I think it is a great tool to empower people and encourage public participation in democratic institutions and processes of this country. Recently, I’ve read and followed the online UK petition about ‘making it illegal for a company to require women to wear high heels at work’ which has already received a Government response and is now scheduled for a debate in Parliament. I also followed another petition about a second EU referendum which has now got more than fourmillion signatures.”

The White House petition reached 665,768 signatures before mysteriously closing. To date Westminster has not commented on the situation between India and Pakistan. Following Sushma Swaraj’s UNGA speech this reporter asked the Foreign Office for a comment and the reply was, “This has no UK involvement and is a matter for India or Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry to comment on”. The UK petition pledges the Government responds to all petitions that receive more than 10,000 signatures. This petition has crossed 18,000 signatures so a written response is now overdue from the Conservative government and should be available soon below the petition on the website.

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