Scandal has once again landed Lord Nazir Ahmed, a British Labour peer, into the hotseat. According to Pakistan’s Express Tribune, Ahmed was speaking at a business reception in Haripur on April 15 when he mentioned the bounty posted by the U.S. government on Hafiz Saeed, a notorious Pakistani extremist. Reportedly, Pakistani-born Lord Ahmed then issued a “bounty” of his own, this time for the capture of the current and former Presidents of the United States. Reports the Tribune:
“If the US can announce a reward of $10 million for the captor of Hafiz Saeed, I can announce a bounty of 10 million pounds on President Obama and his predecessor George Bush,” Lord Nazir said, adding that he would arrange the bounty at any cost even if he was left with the option of selling all his personal assets, including his house.
Saeed is the founder of the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and had reported links with Osama bin Laden. He has also been accused of organizing the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people, including six Americans. The U.S. issued the bounty, according to the Associated Press, “for information leading to Saeed’s arrest and conviction in response to his increasingly ‘brazen’ appearances.”
Reacting swiftly to the Tribune‘s report, Ahmed denied having made such a remark, telling the Press Association, “I never said those words. I did not offer a bounty.” According to Ahmed, his statements had been along a more tempered line and had only concerned the former U.S. president. “I said that there have been war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and those people who have got strong allegations against them — George W. Bush and Tony Blair — have been involved in illegal wars and should be brought to justice.”
Denial aside, the alleged statement followed Ahmed back to the U.K. A spokesperson for the Labour Party told the BBC: “We have suspended Lord Ahmed pending investigation. If these comments are accurate we utterly condemn these remarks which are totally unacceptable.”
This isn’t the first time that Ahmed — who was the first Muslim to become a life peer when he was appointed to the House of Lords in 2008 — has been at the center of controversy. In 2007, he was openly critical of the knighting of author Salman Rushdie, who Ahmed claimed had “blood on his hands” for the provocative nature of some of his writings. And in 2009, Ahmed was briefly jailed for dangerous driving, after a court found that he had been sending text messages while driving immediately prior to crashing into a car on the motorway and killing a 28-year-old man. (The presiding Justice on the case made sure to note that Ahmed’s driving, while dangerous, wasn’t the ultimate cause of the accident.)
The leader of the Labour party, Ed Miliband confirmed to the Press Association that Ahmed had been suspended pending an investigation, however the lord seemed surprised when the news organization relayed the news: “They have suspended me? That’s a surprise to me. I did not know. If the Labour Party want to suspend me I will deal with the Labour Party. They will have to give me some evidence.”