POLICE officers of Pakistani descent have expressed concern about their exclusion from counter-terrorism operations.
Many Pakistan-born applicants for counter-terrorism posts feel that they are being unjustly disqualified because of the country's alleged links with a number of international terror outfits.
They warn that a lack of officers from their own community will increase the feeling of victimisation among ethnic minorities, who form 38 per cent of those stopped and searched under the government's anti-terror laws.
Zaheer Ahmad is the president of the National Association of Muslim Police Officers, who raised the issue with Police Minister Tony McNulty at its first annual conference, held in Warwickshire, last month.
Sgt Ahmad told Eastern Eye: "Some of our members from Pakistan are made to account for every visit, conversation and meeting they have during their visits to the country. It could be as simple as praying at a local mosque that may be linked with an organisation banned in Britain. The slightest element of doubt means they will not be considered for a counter-terrorism post. We feel the government must review a system that is unfairly stacked against us.
"Religious and cultural values must be taken into account. We can't be made to account for every single person we meet or visit back home. None of the other applicants are expected to give such intense details of their holidays. At a time when al-Qaeda has emerged as the biggest threat, more Muslim officers will only help. We hope the government's assurance at the conference of taking this forward will lead to some solutions. Otherwise we will have to go back to the Home Office again."
His colleague from the association, Supt Dal Babu, added: "This may result in low morale and the feeling of obstacles to promotion. Furthermore, it is likely to impact on the operational ability."
The issue stems from November 2006 when a Muslim police officer was removed from a top squad. PC Amjad Farooq, of the Diplomatic Protection Group, was told he had failed security checks.
McNulty said: "The overall procedure is slower than we would like. We will look at it but security is paramount and if there are ways in which we can reform the vetting process without challenge to security, then that's what needs to prevail."
Source: Eastern Eye (English)