Wednesday 21 February 2018

Cameron a role model for us all, says feared terror chief

Rob Crilly in Islamabad

It is hardly the sort of endorsement that Britain's Conservative elite would want or expect.

But one of the world's most feared terrorist chiefs has professed his admiration for David Cameron and Boris Johnson's bicycle-riding "Islamic" lifestyles as he begins a campaign to rein in the excesses of Pakistan's corruption-riddled ruling elite.

Hafiz Saeed, who has a $10m (€8m) American bounty on his head, said Pakistani leaders should look to the British prime minister as a role model and tone down their gilded life of perks and privilege.

In a petition lodged with the Lahore High Court, he noted that while Pakistan's public officers were "living like kings and princes in palatial government houses" Britain's prime minister lived in a four-bedroom flat in a street dating back to the 17th Century.

"When the sun never set on the British Empire, the chief executive of that great country lived in the same house of a few marlas [a fraction of an acre] in a small street. That is truly Islamic, that is like following the Sunnah of the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him)," he wrote in the petition.

While the former Bullingdon Club members may be derided as privileged toffs by some opponents, their lifestyles are modest by the cash-guzzling standards of Pakistan's politicians.

Mr Saeed pointed out that President Asif Ali Zardari recently travelled to Britain by private jet at vast expense to the Pakistani state.

In contrast, he said, the Mayor of London was famous for cycling to work while Mr Cameron had also used a bicycle before becoming prime minister.

Although they might not be Muslims, Mr Saeed said Britain's leaders were following an Islamic lifestyle by travelling in trains and buses rather than private helicopters or VIP motorcades.

Champion

It is something of an understatement to say that Mr Saeed is an unlikely champion of British political values.

He is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group that has attacked Indian troops in Kashmir. In May, the US offered $10m for information leading to his arrest and conviction over his alleged role in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

However, his offensive on Pakistan's VIP culture will find resonance in a country where millions of people live on less than a dollar a day.

Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, who took over as prime minister last month, was roundly criticised for having a helipad installed at his private residence only 14 miles from the capital.

Imtiaz Gul, an author and political analyst, said the opulence of Pakistan's leaders was an easy target.

"All they are interested in is enriching themselves, favouring their friends and helping their relatives," he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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