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Last Updated: Thursday, 24 August 2006, 18:06 GMT 19:06 UK
'My grandson is no terrorist'
By Zulfiqar Ali
BBC News, Haveli Bagal, Mirpur

Grandmother
Fazeelat Bibi says her grandson has been framed
"My grandson is innocent, may Allah protect him," Fazeelat Bibi pleads with tears rolling down her face.

The ailing, aged woman is counting beads while she prays for the safety of her grandson Rashid Rauf - the Briton of Pakistani descent being held in connection with an alleged airline bomb plot.

"He has no bad habits nor did he keep bad company," Fazeelat Bibi told the BBC.

Rashid Rauf is being detained in Pakistan and is at the centre of a continuing investigation involving Pakistan, Britain and the US.

Pakistani authorities say there are no immediate plans to return him to the UK.

His brother, Tayib, 22, was released without charge after being questioned in the UK for two weeks over the alleged plot.

'Release my grandson'

Haveli Bagal - Rashid Rauf's ancestral village in southern Mirpur district - lies about 100km 60 miles) south-east of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad.

How could he be involved in a plot to kill innocent people? Which ruthless person framed my grandson?
Grandmother Fazeelat Bibi

The lakeside hamlet is nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas and ringed by corn fields.

Pakistani authorities say Rashid Rauf came to Pakistan in 2002 from Britain and stayed in Punjab province most of the time.

He is accused of playing a pivotal role in the alleged plan to bomb airliners and of being the go-between between al-Qaeda and the suspected plotters in Briton.

His grandmother says the allegations against her grandson are unfounded.

"He is a humane and God-fearing person, obedient and punctual at prayers. Even a cat could scare him and he would not even crush an ant under his feet," she says.

"How could he be involved in a plot to kill innocent people? Which ruthless person framed my grandson?"

"I ask you - please help release my grandson, he is innocent."

'No contact'

Fazeelat Bibi has a son, Abdul Rauf, and a daughter in the UK, where she has stayed off and on over the past 12 years.

Haveli Bagal
Haveli Bagal has sent many of its sons and daughters to the UK

Fazeelat's son moved to England in the 1960s and settled in Birmingham where he became a baker.

Abdul Rauf had four sons, including Rashid Rauf, and a daughter. One son died at an early age in Birmingham and was later buried in Haveli Bagal.

Abdul Rauf has visited the village often since moving to England, but no one in the family remembers if Rashid Rauf has ever been.

His grandmother says she has had no contact with him since he left his home in Birmingham some four years ago.

Her last wish is to see her grandson once more, even though her eyesight is very weak.

Villagers in Haveli Bagal know little about Rashid Rauf because he was born in England, one relative, Qazi Zaffar, says.

"All we know about him is that he left his Birmingham home some four years ago and never turned up before he was detained by the Pakistani authorities."

But he says that Rashid Rauf's father, Abdul Rauf, is a very simple and God-fearing person.

"Whenever he visited his village, he spent most of the time at home or would go to the mosque for prayers and would hardly interact with villagers," he said.

'Conspiracy'

Qazi Zaffar's brothers and sisters and many other relatives live in England and, like many here, he depends on their financial assistance.

People in Mirpur want the British government to publish evidence or it should not target a particular community
Mirpur resident Aijaz Fazal

Many people in the village are scared to talk about the case, apparently because of the presence of Pakistan's intelligence agencies.

In Mirpur district hardly anyone believes that there is any truth in the alleged plot.

Malick Abdul Majeed, a retired judge, echoes the views of many when he says that it is an international conspiracy in which a young British-born man of Mirpuri decent has been implicated.

"Nothing has been so far recovered that could indicate his involvement in a plot," he says.

"This drama has been staged by world powers to give the impression to their people that Asian Muslims have links with al-Qaeda."

"It is aimed at bailing them out in their countries following public opposition against their so-called war on terror," he says.

Pakistani newspapers with details of Britain's terror plot arrests on sale in Karachi
At least 17 suspects are believed to be in Pakistani custody

"It was also aimed at diverting attention from Lebanon."

Another Mirpuri, Aijaz Fazal, who frequently visits England, says Mirpuris are "loyal citizens of Britain".

"We stand shoulder to shoulder with English people in politics, businesses and other activities and affairs. Mirpuris are part of Britain and it is their country and they have played a great role in the development of that country," he says.

"People in Mirpur want the British government to publish evidence or it should not target a particular community."

Mirpur is the most prosperous district in Pakistan-administered Kashmir thanks to money sent back by people who moved to Britain.

The cash has fuelled a mini-boom, with banks, glitzy shopping malls, car showrooms, and hotels and travel companies lining the main street in the town.

About 500,000 people from Pakistan administered-Kashmir are settled in England and most are from Mirpur district.

Some people now fear they will be looked at with suspicion in the UK because of the suspected plotters' alleged links and some fear a backlash from the majority community.




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