International Terrorism

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:42 am on 4th October 2001.

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Photo of Michael Ancram Michael Ancram Shadow Secretary of State, Deputy Leader of the Conservative Party, Shadow Foreign Secretary 10:42 am, 4th October 2001

May I say to the hon. Gentleman, whom I have known for a long time, that I spent four years combating terrorism in Northern Ireland, and I need no lessons from him as to what constitutes a threat of terrorism. The House knows that what we are about today is a campaign to eradicate the virus of international terrorism because it threatens everyone—every religion, Government and nation throughout the world. We must continue to condemn those who seek to stir up religious or racial unrest on the back of 11 September. The origins of those outrages were not Muslim or Christian; they were not of any religion. Indeed, members of all faiths were the victims of them. Those evil deeds were the product of a perverted intelligence, and we must not allow them to drive wedges between people whose faiths are in fact about peace and ideals about human understanding. I support the Government's proposals to deal with that matter in future legislation.

The goal of freeing the world from the scourge of international terrorism can be achieved only if the international will exists. I pay tribute to the coalition that has been built up over the past three weeks, which is truly remarkable, and to the Prime Minister for his contribution to its formation. Last Friday's UN resolution was another milestone in the history of international co-operation. The coalition is the more remarkable—indeed, the stronger—for the fact that it is not homogenous but comprises different levels of participation and, if I may say so, of enthusiasm. At the same time, it is bound together by the common understanding that international terrorism is a virus that can destroy us all.

May I pay a special tribute to the Government of Pakistan, whose courageous stand will be central to the first phase of the fight against terrorism? They have stood up for what is right and we owe the people of Pakistan our support and help, not just in the short term but in the difficult years that may lie ahead. We understand the sensitivities of their position and we respect them.

The fight against international terrorism must have twin tracks. The eradication of terrorism, if it is to mean anything in the long term, must also mean the delivery of hope—the hope of delivery not only from the oppression of terror, but from the oppression of poverty and starvation. In Afghanistan the two are linked, because so much of the humanitarian crisis that we are witnessing is the result of the depredations of the Taliban—but the crisis is wider than that, and if we are to be credible in our fight against terror we must be credible in our fight against humanitarian disaster, too.

The United Nations has said that Afghanistan is facing a humanitarian crisis of unprecedented proportions. That is a problem that cannot be ignored; it needs to be aired on the Floor of the House, and the Government must respond to it.

Before 11 September, Afghanistan had been ravaged by 20 years of civil war. As a result there are now 4 million Afghan refugees in the region, and 1 million internally displaced people. Now we are told that a further 1 million are likely to flee to Pakistan, half a million to Iran and 100,000 to the central Asian republics.

Afghanistan is also a country ravaged by drought of appalling proportions. The harvest has failed for the fourth year in a row, and the United Nations expects 7 million people to become dependent on emergency food supplies. The stark truth is that we are now working against the odds and against the clock to avert a devastating famine.

The Government have announced emergency funds to cope with the refugee crisis. We welcome that, but serious questions remain about standards in the refugee camps, and we look to the Government to assure us that adequate steps will urgently be taken to ensure that the camps are clean and safe and that the basic dignity of the refugees will be respected.