8 OCTOBER

MARGARET THATCHER TOASTS PAKISTAN’S DICTATOR ZIA

On 8 October 1981 British prime minister Margaret Thatcher attended a banquet hosted by Pakistan’s military dictator, general Zia.  In an after dinner speech she urged other countries to join Britain in supporting the regime, which Britain was already supplying with a large amount of weaponry.  She finished the speech by proposing a toast “to the health and happiness of his Excellency the President,” and to “lasting friendship between the peoples of the United Kingdom and Pakistan.”

General Zia was a major supporter of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan and also introduced extremist Sharia law across Pakistan while providing state funding for the first time for the country’s radical madrassas (religious schools) and authorizing the imprisonment of many rape victims for committing zina (the sin of extra marital sex). Zia also encouraged fundamentalist Wahhabi trained clerics to travel to Britain to preach in the mosques.

In March 1978, his government authorized the use of military helicopters to kill hundreds of peasants participating in a non-violent protest against the sentencing to death of former prime minister Zulficar Ali Bhutto.  A year after Thatcher’s visit, Zia resorted to yet more repressive legislation to buttress his regime against any pressures from below,  passing Martial Law Regulation number 53 which proscribed the death penalty for “any offense liable to cause insecurity, fear or despondency amongst the public.”

WAR CABINET DISCUSSES TARGETING AFGHAN MEDIA OUTLETS  DESPITE ADVICE THIS COULD CONSTITUTE A WAR CRIME.

At a meeting of the War Cabinet on 8 October 2001, the day after the American and British bombing of Afghanistan started,  Alastair Campbell recorded in his diary that they discussed “targeting some of the Afghan TV output” despite the fact that “both Harriet ( Hamran, Solicitor General ) and the Attorney General (Lord Peter Goldsmith ) had seemingly raised concerns.”(1) There is little doubt that any such attack would have also targeted civilian journalists and technicians of media outlets which while they may have served a propaganda purpose, had little or no strategic military value and any such targeting would therefore have constituted a war crime.

FOOTNOTES

  1. Alastair Campbell and Bill Hagerty (2013), “The Alastair Campbell Diaries: Volume 4 The Burden of Power Countdown to Iraq,” Arrow Books, London p42.

 

 

 

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