Satirical swipe, diplomatic breach, or both? The Labour Party in the UK has announced the suspension of Lord Ahmed after Pakistani media reported that the first-ever Muslim life peer and member of the House of Lords offered a £10 million bounty (roughly $16 million) for the capture of Barack Obama and George W. Bush. The comments came after the US announced a $10 million reward for information that leads to the capture of the Lashkar-e-Taiba leader who masterminded the 2008 Mumbai attacks:
A Labour Party spokesman said: “We have suspended Lord Ahmed pending investigation. If these comments are accurate we utterly condemn these remarks which are totally unacceptable.”
According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper Lord Ahmed offered the bounty in response to a US action a week ago.
The US issued a $10 million reward for the capture of Pakistani militant leader Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group, who it suspects of orchestrating the 2008 Mumbai attacks in which 166 people died as terrorists stormed hotels and a train station.
The British peer reportedly said: “‘If the US can announce a reward of $10 million for the (capture) of Hafiz Saeed, I can announce a bounty of £10 million (for the capture of) President Obama and his predecessor, George Bush.”
The suspension doesn’t appear to affect Baron Nazir Ahmed’s role in the House of Lords, only his status with the party. Since he’s a life peer, that probably doesn’t impact his ability to engage in the British government. It saves the Labour Party some embarrassment, but doesn’t affect Ahmed’s access, at least as I understand the House of Lords peerage system.
Ahmed, for his part, denies he said any such thing. While he has called for war-crimes charges to be brought against Bush and Tony Blair in the past, Ahmed says that he never offered a bounty. He does have, however, a history of making incendiary statements. In 2009, Ahmed reportedly threatened to get 10,000 Muslims to “lay siege” to the House of Lords if they allowed controversial Dutch filmmaker and Islam critic Geert Wilders to speak, which he later also denied. Ahmed also alleged that newly-knighted Salman Rushdie had “blood on his hands,” and last year traveled to Libya in what some saw as a protest against NATO action against Moammar Qaddafi, comparing it to the NATO war in Afghanistan, which Ahmed opposes.
Even if Ahmed did offer the bounty, it seems to have been poorly-constructed satire to criticize the bounty on Saeed. The better question for Ahmed is why he’d argue on behalf of a terrorist who ran a mass-murder operation against civilians in Mumbai. The Labour Party denounced that position in its statement:
“The international community is rightly doing all in its power to seek justice for the victims of the Mumbai bombings and halt terrorism.”
Ahmed doesn’t represent the UK, nor the Labour Party, at least not any longer, so this is more of a curiosity than a diplomatic incident. Perhaps he and George Galloway might think about forming their own political party, since they seem to have roughly similar notions of justice and civilization.