Thursday 24 November 2011 will forever be remembered as the day when the people of Britain demonstrated that, when united together irrespective of race, religion or political background, they could bring about real political change. That day, I sat in Westminster Hall watching 35 MPs, one after another rise to speak out against the injustice of our extradition laws and specifically calling for justice for my son Babar Ahmad, now in his eighth year of detention without trial.
The primary reason behind such a powerful presence was because of the tireless efforts you all have put in over the last three months. I was abroad whilst the petition campaign was underway but was monitoring it closely via Facebook and YouTube. As the number of signatures began to rise day after day, hour after hour, I sat at my computer screen all night praying that we would cross the 100,000 target. It was like watching a thrilling one-day international cricket match.
When I found out that our petition, having obtained over 140,000 signatures, was to be debated in Westminster Hall, I was shocked. This was after all the same debating chamber that Natascha Engel, the Chair of the Backbench Business Committee, complained to the BBC about in June this year highlighting that the debates were not very well attended, it was a second rate debating chamber with no vote taken at the end.
I am sure that I am not the only one who was greatly disappointed by this decision. This was not the first setback we have faced over the last eight years but definitely one of the most painful as it seemed the government was going back on its promise. It seemed that all our hard work had gone to waste. I am sure all of you felt the same. I then recalled the words of Hannibal when trying to cross the Alps: “We will either find a way or make a way”.
I told my children that we had to stand up and demand that the government honour their promise. We had to make our way. As news filtered out about the decision of the Backbench Business Committee, a few were ready to give up, and I do not blame them, but most it seemed were ready to fight. In recent weeks, you have bombarded your own MPs and the Backbench Business Committee with emails and telephone calls demanding this issue to be raised at the highest level, the Commons debating chamber. It is no understatement to say that you have shaken Westminster.
Finally at the debate on Thursday, Ms Jane Ellison MP, said that the Backbench Business Committee noted the enormous interest in Babar’s case and was more than happy to take further representations for time in the main Commons debating chamber, which all MPs present agreed with. Watching this happen before my eyes, I could not believe it. We are making our way and nothing is going to stop us, God willing.
I never thought that at the age of 77, I would have spent the last eight years fighting for justice for my son, but I have never felt more strongly, more passionately and have never been more optimistic that we are on the verge of making history, and bringing a fair resolution to this issue. So I thank all 140,969 of you that signed the petition, and all those who wanted to but didn’t get the opportunity, for your breathtaking efforts in fighting this injustice. The road so far has been a difficult one and I am sure there will be numerous challenges ahead, but let us reaffirm our resolve, recommit to this call for justice and let us be uncompromising in our appal to our government to recognise its responsibilities to its own citizens. I invite you to continue with me on this journey of seeking justice for my son Babar Ahmad.
I leave you with the words of legendary boxer Muhammad Ali: “If you even dream of beating me you’d better wake up and apologize.”
- To see if your MP attended the debate and to read the main highlights of the debate, please click here. If your MP had attended or made representations to the Backbench Business Committee, please remember to email them to thank them for their support.
- Click here to read the full transcript or to watch a video of the debate.