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OPINION: “Outing a whistleblower puts his life and family at risk in Pakistan”

Outing someone is always wrong, no matter the circumstances. Outing someone is especially wrong when done in response to allegedly being exposed for serious political wrongdoing.

For those unfamiliar with this story, Shahmir Sanni is a whistleblower who claims the pro-Brexit Vote Leave group channeled money through another group called BeLeave, allegedly in order to hide the fact that they were spending more cash than they were allowed to.

Sanni’s punishment? He endured one of the ‘most awful weekends’ of his life, as he was forced to hastily come out to his Pakistani mother following the statement released by former Vote Leave official Stephen Parkinson.

This statement, which was seemingly endorsed by a Downing Street official, revealed Sanni’s sexuality rather than address the allegations made. That I find disgusting.

It doesn’t surprise me that the big guns are being thrown out there to scare other people from blowing their whistle too noisily. There is a hugely exposing political scandal brewing, which the chance to undermine the Brexit referendum, damage British institutions and reveal the filthy tricks politicians in our own country are playing to try and brain wash us into their way of thinking on social media. It’s not just the Russians playing dirty games with your mind on the internet.

There was no need to ‘out’ Sanni. In my opinion, Sanni’s sexuality (and relationship with Parkinson) is in no way connected to, or explanatory of, the scandal that now dogs the ultimately successful Vote Leave campaign.

Vote Leave formally declared it had spent £6.77m during the campaign in the summer of 2016, well below the £7m limit. That figure, however, excluded £625,000 donated by Vote Leave to BeLeave which was spent on the same digital marketing company, AggregateIQ, that Vote Leave used.

It transpires that Stephen Parkinson, the head honcho of Vote Leave and Shahmir Sanni were in a relationship.

Parkinson used a statement from No.10 stamped ‘OFFICIAL’ to rebuff Sanni’s accusations of very close ties between the Vote Leave and BeLeave, by saying – to paraphrase – “the two campaign groups were separate and spending was separate…the close links Sanni is referring to were only due to our relationship.”

Forget about the fact that Theresa May has washed her hands of it, dismissing the statement as a ‘personal’ one by Parkinson, in spite of that word ‘OFFICIAL’. Forget about the fact that the political element of this remains entirely unresolved. Homosexuality is still punishable by death in Pakistan. That is the potential consequence of Parkinson’s statement.

While there is no evidence that the death penalty has been applied to same-sex relationships between privately consenting adults, Sanni is no longer in the private eye. His

sexuality is now known across the world, and his family are known in Pakistan. He says he has had to take security measures to protect them. All because he blew the whistle.

Sanni has shown remarkable bravery. He has had to. Parkinson has hidden behind the hollow words of his ‘spokesman’, words which show no understanding of the perilous situation in which he has placed Sanni.

What happens next politically is anyone’s guess. Yet I would venture that there will be

more severe consequences for Sanni than for Parkinson, both personally and in respect of his career.

That can be the only conclusion when the Prime Minister remains steadfast in her opinion that Parkinson ‘does a very good job’.

If the remit of Parkinson’s job is to endanger those who dare to blow the whistle, then I’d say Theresa May is right – he has done a good job. Sanni’s plight will fade from the front pages as the world moves on, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that this is a young gay man who will face persecution should he ever return home.

This is not a danger that fades like a story from public view, but one which will remain with him so long as Pakistan retains its approach to LGBT rights. Parkinson has handed Sanni a life sentence, while Vote Leave may well get off from their alleged misdealing scot-free.

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