Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, in an interview on Monday, termed Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi a “terrorist” and said the Indian government was being run by a “a terrorist party”.
Asif made the remarks in a private TV channel show in response to Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) speech, in which she had accused Pakistan of “producing and exporting terrorism”.
“Why is it today India is a recognised IT superpower in the world, and Pakistan is recognised only as the pre-eminent export factory for terror?” she had said at the assembly. “We produce scholars, doctors, engineers. What have you produced? You have produced terrorists,” she had accused.
Asif, while talking about the many Kashmiris who have been killed in India-held Kashmir and touching upon civilian casualties in cross-border firing along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, recalled those allegations on Monday.
“A terrorist is their [India’s] prime minister at this time: one whose hands are stained with the blood of the Muslims of Gujarat,” he countered. “A terrorist party is ruling them [India] – the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS) is ruling them. The Bharatiya Jannata Party (BJP) is like its subsidiary organisation,” he said.
“But Narendra Modi,” the show’s host, reminded Asif, “is an elected ‘terrorist’.”
“The nation that elects a terrorist… what kind of nation is that?” Asif retorted.
Explaining his stance, Asif said: “Look at the language the Indian prime minister is using, the way Muslims are being killed over cow-related issues. And just recently, on Dussehra, they burnt the effigies of Rohingya Muslims four times,” he claimed.
“In Dussehra, they burn the effigies of villains… They declared Rohingya Muslims terrorists,” he stressed, adding that although India was quick to call others terrorists, “The biggest terrorist [is Modi]. Muslims were raped and murdered under his supervision when he was chief minister [of Gujarat]. The US had banned him,” he reminded.
The US had distanced itself from Modi after the 2002 riots in the state of Gujarat in which over 2,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed. Washington denied him a visa after human rights groups accused him of not moving to halt the carnage, but in 2014, it lifted the ban.
The statement is Asif’s strongest yet against India since he assumed the post of foreign minister in Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s cabinet. He had previously served as defence minister under ex-PM Nawaz Sharif.
Asif was also asked to elaborate on his recent statements at the Asia Society forum, where he asked the US not to blame Pakistan for groups such as the Haqqani Network and the Jamaatud Dawa.
“These people were your darlings just 20 to 30 years back. They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say ‘go to hell Pakistanis because you are nurturing these people’,” he had said.
Asif, who was sent a defamation notice by JuD chief Hafiz Saeed last week, said that Saeed was not among those who had visited the White House.
However, he said, he stood firmly by his statements, noting that although “Imran Khan had the same stance a few years ago, now that I have said the same thing, he is criticising me.”
“The National Action Plan was made to clean up our own house; I have said the same thing. It was agreed upon by all parties and the nation,” he asserted, referring to an earlier statement in which he spoke of the need to “put our house in order” by taking a stronger stance against banned groups.
The remarks have earned him criticism from lawmakers, with Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan asking: “With such a foreign minister, who needs enemies?”
Our political interests are not personal but in sync with the democratic system and the interests of our 15 million voters,” Asif said regarding Nawaz Sharif’s re-election as PML-N president.
“Nawaz Sharif’s personality is the axis of the party” and him being elected thrice as the prime minister means the vote bank belongs to Sharif, Asif said.
“There is no other leader of his stature in the party,” Asif said, adding that it was the party’s right to elect whoever they wanted to elect as their leader.
“A clash of institutions will damage Pakistan,” he said, suggesting all issues could be resolved if everyone left their personal and institutional ego behind to talk about “Pakistan’s ego”.
The foreign minister said that he is set to visit the US where he will meet Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser Gen H.R. McMaster.
Asif said that a scheduled meeting with US leadership had been postponed after President Donald Trump’s Afghan policy statement, but US officials extended another invitation to him during meetings on the sidelines of the UN Security Council.
“I wanted to get a fresh mandate” which is why the matter was discussed in a detailed National Security Council meeting ahead of the US visit, Asif explained.
The foreign minister dismissed media reports claiming Afghanistan had asked for Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav in exchange of the Army Public School attack mastermind, claiming that they were based on hearsay.
“The Afghan government has given us a list [of terrorists wanted in Afghanistan] which includes some who have died, some who live in other countries and some who are shadow governors in Afghanistan. That also includes the APS mastermind. But Afghanistan hasn’t talked about Kulbhushan, and why would they?”