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Sunday, 7 March 2010

Ali Mohammed Abbas 1922 - 1979

I guess that Ali Mohammed Abbas is one of those guys that blue plaques are there for someone who worked behind the scenes of one of the most significant events of the twentieth century, the Partition of India. So, his name doesn't resonate like that of Gandhi or Nehru or Jinnah but he and others like him founded the Sub-continental states. He was empowered by his wealthy maternal grandfather whose money saw him educated, he became a student representative and joined the ALl India Muslim League. Like many Indian nationalists he came to Britain to pursue the dream of Indian independence and a career in the law. He was a groundbreaker, the first Asian barrister to appear in all the levels of court in England and set up nearly 30 schools across England to teach Pakistani immigrants english. In 1947 his house in Tavistock Square became the unofficial embassy of Pakistan.

His blue plaque is sited at 33 Tavistock Square, metres from the site of one of the terrorist atrocities that took place on 7th July 2005 when Hasib Hussein detonated an explosive device on a bus killing 13 innocent people. Hussein was a British-born Muslim of Pakistani descent.

I can't help but wonder what Abbas, an educated Muslim who lived by the law would have made of the modern Islamist movement with their utter disregard for life?

I've been fortunate to travel a little in the former British colonies in South Asia, both in India and Sri Lanka, both countries have problems; India has its own religious strife, particularly between Hindus and Muslims and the massive divide detween rich and poor has developed a bubbling Naxalite insurgency. Sri Lanka has its own horrors (hopefully now over) with the Tamil Tiger atrocities (who knew that the first suicide bombers werent Muslim?) and the governments heavy handed responses. But neither of those two states stand on the brink of failiure as Pakistan does. I don't pretend to be an expert in Pakistani politics but the tribalism inherent in the country seems to me to be a major factor.

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