By Umar Khan.
Tripoli, 2 June:
Abdul Hakim Belhaj has resigned from the Tripoli Military Council (TMC) to prepare for the upcoming elections for the National Congress. Despite his busy schedule he spoke with the Libya Herald from his party office in an upmarket area of Tripoli, about the Nation Party, its vision, future plans and his case against the British government.
“I’m a civilian like the thousands of other revolutionaries. We took part in the revolution and fought against a tyrant for our rights. It was a phase of the revolution which enabled us to move towards a state. We were never part of the army,” he said, regarding his eligibility for the elections. “The next phase of the revolution is establishment of the state, a major part of which is the political participation. and many people fought to win the same rights,” he added.
Asked about the timing of his resignation as head of the TMC, he said: “Initially there were negotiations within the [Nation] party whether to participate in the elections or not and after extensive discussions we agreed to participate. As soon as the details were finalised I resigned from the post to move into the next phase, politics.” He is standing for election to the National Congress, running for the Suq Al-Juma seat in the Tripoli constituency.
Talking about the vision of his party, Belhaj said: “We believe in a democratic state based on the state institutions. A civil state that observes human rights and that guarantees justice and equality for all Libyans without any discrimination of tribe or region.” Asked if the party would force the Islamic law, Belhadj answered: “All Libyans are Muslims and it’s their own choice to govern and discipline their lives according to their religion, culture and tradition. It is the Libyan way of life and religion is very integral part of it.”
“We have been working very hard on planning the electoral campaign for the party. We have offices in many different cities which will start the campaign as soon as the final lists [of candidates] are issued by the electoral commission,” Belhadj said, speaking about the electoral campaign of the party. He also added that all party supporters would take part in the extensive campaign which would focus on providing as much information about the party as possible to counter the misinformation already spread about it.
When asked about the Ummah Party, a group which separated from the Nation Party to form their own party, he said that “they didn’t agree with the philosophy and ideas of the party and separated. There is no question on the level of their sincerity or intentions, they want the very best for the country but have their own vision.” Asked if there was a chance to form an alliance with the Ummah party for the National Congress, he said, “Our goals are similar yet very different. If you closely study the agenda for any party, they all have some specialties. There is no decision to form an alliance with any party yet but we are open to working with any party as we all want to see Libya as a developed country. It is the priority.”
Talking about the upcoming challenges, Belhadj said, “We have enormous challenges in front of us like the general security situation in the streets, dealing with the revolutionaries and drafting the constitution and different laws. The aim of the National Congress will be to develop the base of the future Libyan state.”
He also added that these are sensitive times and it will be important that decisions are reached by consensus. “We know that the vision of all parties is to see Libya as a constitutional democracy and we all have to work together to achieve it.”
When asked if he’d like to use the Turkish system as an example for the future Libyan state, he said, “Definitely! Not only Turkey — we can learn from the experience of all countries. Our aim is to serve our country and we all are aware that Turkey has great experience in developing the country, guarding human rights and the economic stability. The Justice and Development Party overcame all these challenges and we can learn from their experience.” He also added: “We need to learn the implementation of their strategies which mostly depend on a solid government. We should focus on investing in people rather than developing the county alone.
“There is a strong legacy of issues from the 42 years of Gaddafi rule. There are no state institutions or national army or any other stable security apparatus,” Belhaj continued. “There are no laws or any kind of discipline. These are the issues that will be addressed by the elected national congress as the priority.”
Talking about the news of alleged links between the former LIFG (Libyan Islamist Fighting Group) of which he was a member and Al-Qaeda, a somewhat annoyed Belhaj said, “LIFG is history. It was created to get rid of Qaddafi, for the salvation of the Libyan people. We have made it clear many times that it had no links with Al Qaeda.” He said it was suspicious how some people with a specific agenda and certain point of view were spreading the misinformation.
When asked about his case against the British government and the news of an out-of-court settlement, Belhaj said, “I have said the same thing from the beginning that I don’t want any money but a formal apology from the British government for what they did to me. It was illegal. There have been no negotiations regarding an out-of-court settlement. The case is in the court and its up to the honorable judge to decide.
“I’m willing to cooperate with the Metropolitan Police [in London] with the investigation and I have no problem talking to them. I’m aware that they are waiting for the visas but due to the policy of the Interior Ministry of not allowing any foreign investigators into the country it is unlikely they’ll get it anytime soon.” He continued: “Prime Minister Kib recently said that they will allow Scotland Yard into Libya for the investigation regarding the PC Yvonne Fletcher case. I hope this will also help the Metropolitan Police to get the visas.”
When asked if he’d go to United Kingdom if the court or the British police ask, Belhaj said ,with a straight face, “If they call me, I’ve no trouble going to the UK.
Umar Khan can be found at twitter.com/umarnkhan [/restrict]