Charles and Camilla trip cancelled in security alert
From The Telegraph
An anti-western backlash against the killing of 80 suspected Islamic militants at a madrassa in Pakistan has forced the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall to cancel their planned visit to the northern city of Peshawar today.
Fears of riots and demonstrations in the city following yesterday's air strikes by Pakistani army helicopters on the school near the border with Afghanistan has meant that the area is no longer regarded as safe.
In a statement, Clarence House said last night: "An alternative programme for their Royal Highnesses is being considered. The prince and the duchess are disappointed not to be going."
The madrassa was suspected of being run as a training camp by a militant cleric linked to al-Qa'eda. Details of the raid emerged just a few hours before Prince Charles met the Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, for a discussion of issues that included counter-terrorism.
The madrassa was in the village of Chingai in the wild North West Frontier Province, of which Peshawar is the capital. . . Peshawar is only 15 miles from the Khyber Pass and it is along this porous frontier that al-Qa'eda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri are believed to be hiding. The very name Khyber Pass conjures up tales of Rudyard Kipling although sadly I also recall the antics of “Carry on up the Khyber”. The current situation is not the stuff of saucy comedy.
The tribal areas in the rugged terrain are seen as a breeding ground for Islamist extremists. Some of the more extreme madrassas in the region are viewed almost as jihad factories, feeding young men a diet of extremist ideology then setting them loose to fight their holy war. Several British-born Muslim extremists known to have been recruited by al-Qa'eda had visited religious schools in the country, notably two of the 7/7 suicide bombers.
It was for this very reason that the prince wanted to visit a madrassa that has been working closely with the British Council and which has a moderate way of teaching. His message was to have been that not all madrassas are a threat. Many provide the only means of schooling available for impoverished children.
I think Prince Charles has received a very different message about the madrassa system through this – let us hope that he takes heed of it.
On a trivial note I like some of the Duchess of Cornwall’s outfits for the trip, rather 70s style tunic and trouser suits which meet local conventions but which are still obviously western dress that could be seen in any English county town. The shalwar kameez given as gifts sound very colourful, (I do like a bit of colour) and more like the outfits I remember from my youth. But were the Duchess to travel to India or Singapore would her outfits need to be so carefully moderated?
Posted on 10/31/2006 2:29 AM by Esmerelda Weatherwax