Our little Paki friend was the phrase used by the individual commonly known as Prince Harry, being the younger son of Prince Charles and therefore third in line to the throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. He uttered this phrase during the course of his officer training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 2006, during which time he decided to make a video diary, a copy of which later fell into the hands of the News of the World. Naturally this newspaper subsequently felt obliged to bring the matter to the nation's attention, and duly did so on the 10th January 2008 under the headline 'Prince Harry video nasty that will spark outrage'.
The circumstances were that the Sandhurst cadets were waiting at an airport for a flight to Cyprus. A number decided to avail themselves of the opportunity for a short nap, and whilst they were sleeping Harry filmed the scene. It was as he zoomed in on the face of one particular soldier that he could be heard whispering the words, "Ah, our little Paki friend ... Ahmed".
The News of the World also provided further details regarding Harry's first venture into film production which included much sarcastic mocking of army bureaucracy together with his repeated use of the phrase, "All is good in the Empire". The public were also treated to the exciting revelation that Prince Harry did indeed possess 'ginger pubes', and that he had also greeted one of his comrades with the remark "It's Dan the Man ... Fuck me, you look like a raghead." To cap it all the "disrespectful Prince" (as he was described by the News of the World) pretended to hold a conversation with his grandmother HRH Elizabeth II which he concluded with the words, "Granny I've got to go, send my love to the Corgis and Grandpa. I've got to go, got to go, bye. God Save You ... yeah, that's great."
However the greatest crime committed by the good Prince was his use of the word Paki, a misdeed that was described by David Cameron as being "obviously completely unacceptable", whilst Nick Clegg offered the opinion that they would "have caused considerable offence". Although Gordon Brown was slightly less critical and beloved that it was merely "unacceptable" as he also expressed the belief that the good prince was "still a role model".
A word of explanation might be necessary here, as whilst 'Paki' might appear to a mere abbreviation for the more formal 'Pakistani', it is, as the Oxford English Dictionary explains, a slang word whose use is usually regarded as being "derogatory and offensive". The word first entered the English language in 1964 courtesy of The Guardian of all people, being thereafter used by white racists to describe anyone of South Asian descent, as evidenced by the emergence in the 1970s of compound words such as Paki-bashing and Paki-busting which described very real incidents of racial violence up and down the country. The word 'Paki' therefore brings with it certain connotations which are impossible to ignore, whilst it is no doubt doubly offensive to be referred to as a 'Paki' if one happens to be of Indian rather than Pakistani descent.
One of the few that spoke up in defence of Harry was Roderick Richards, one-time leader of the Conservative Party in Wales. Mr Richards argued that since he regarded 'Paki' as an abbreviation, in his view the prince had not, as he put it, "crossed the line". Indeed Richards noted that he had frequently been called 'Taffy' whilst he was in the Army, and that even colleagues in the House of Commons had on occasion made the now traditional reference to his allegedly national predilection for "having sexual relations with sheep". None of which, he claimed, had caused him much in the way of pain. It might well have been argued that Richards might have had a point, since www.paki.com claimed to be the "Biggest Pakistani Online Community", whilst there was also a Paypal clone known as PakiPay, which would suggest that the word paki might not quite be as derogatory as was imagined. Nevertheless it was a word that, in a British context, came with a certain baggage, and was thus best avoided by those individuals who might be said to be subject to public scrutiny, such as members of the royal family for example.
It turned out that Prince Harry was at least accurate in his identification as the sleeping soldier turned out to be one Ahmed Raza Khan, who was indeed a Pakistani national. Captain Khan, who had an award for the best overseas cadet at Sandhurst, had since become a company commander in the "crack Frontier Force regiment" fighting in the "tribal badlands near the Afghan border". Speaking 'exclusively' to The Sun, Khan described the Prince as "a really nice guy" and "my friend" and revealed that Harry had telephoned him to apologise for any offence caused. Although Khan recognised that he had been called "by a nickname which is usually very insulting" he knew that Harry "didn't mean it that way", and in view of the apology simply felt that it was time "to close this chapter".
Others were less forgiving as the Equality and Human Rights Commission that demanded a formal inquiry into Harry's behaviour. However although the Ministry of Defence confirmed that it took all allegations of inappropriate behaviour "very seriously and all substantive allegations are investigated", it was "not aware of any complaint having been made by the individual". Nevertheless it seemed as if Harry faced a "formal interview" with his commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Harry Fullerton, over the "use of his language". The official word from Clarence House was that Prince Harry fully understood how offensive this term could be and was now "extremely sorry for any offence" he might have caused, but that he had "used the term without any malice". Which, no doubt, would be a subject more fully explored during the Prince's interview with Lieutenant-Colonel Fullerton.
As to who was responsible for allowing the video to come into the possession of the News of the World in the first place, it appeared that an unnamed member of the Household Cavalry believed that the video had extracted from his laptop computer sometime during the preceding three years and had informed the Special Investigation Branch of the Royal Military Police of his suspicions. Although it seemed that an investigation was under way to identify the miscreant who had sold the item to the News of the World, no criminal charges were expected to be brought against the individual responsible, although they would (if identified) be regarded as having breached military "values and standards".
All of which left us to ponder the question as to whether Prince Harry was indeed a racist, or simply a perfectly normal young man who sometimes opened his mouth without thinking, but otherwise showed evidence of possessing something of a sense of humour.
- Robert Jobson and Ryan Sabey, Prince Harry video nasty that will spark outrage, News of the World, 10/01/2009
- Amelia Hill, Prince mocks gays and Asians in secret video, The Observer, 11 January 2009
- Prince's apology genuine, says PM, BBC News, 12 January 2009
- Alex Peake, Soldier speaks: Harry's not a racist, The Sun, 17 Jan 2009
- Sean Rayment and Andrew Alderson, Officer tells military police Harry video was stolen from his laptop computer, 18 Jan 2009