Shahid M Amin
TERRORISM is on the rampage in several parts of the world. In Pakistan, terrorist incidents took a heavy toll in Parachinar and Quetta on June 23, 2017. About 85 people were reported killed. There was also a gun attack targeting police officials in Karachi that left four policemen dead. An army spokesman linked the incidents to “sanctuaries across the border” in Afghanistan. He warned that “stringent action” will be taken against illegal border-crossers. Responsibility for the Quetta car bomb blast was claimed by Jamaatul Ahrar, but the militant Daesh made a similar claim. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar was reported as telling the Chief of General Staff that incidents of such nature spring up every time the Pak-Afghan border is opened up. He also said, “It is strange that every time there is any incident of terrorism in Afghanistan, they are quick to blame Pakistan for it. However, there is no discussion in international forums about the terrorism that comes to Pakistan from across the border.”
Against the above background, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi paid an important visit to Islamabad on June 25. He had earlier visited Kabul where he held discussions with the Afghan Foreign Minister and National Security Adviser. For the first time, China made an offer to mediate between Pakistan and Afghanistan, whose relations have been severely strained due to accusations made by each other of involvement in terrorist incidents. After his discussions in Islamabad, it was said that a bilateral crisis management mechanism between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be evolved to enable the two sides to maintain timely and effective communications in case of any emergencies.
China also proposed a trilateral mechanism for cooperation for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan and coordination of counter-terrorism actions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. China wants to place special focus on economic cooperation. In a joint press briefing, Wang Yi and Foreign Policy Adviser Sartaj Aziz agreed on the need for reviving the QCG process to create a conducive environment for talks between Afghan government and the Taliban. The Quadrilateral Coordination Group consists of Afghanistan, Pakistan, USA and China, which was formed in January 2016 for reconciliation in Afghanistan through direct peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan government.
Earlier, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that China had desired to take on a role as mediator between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Two weeks ago, there had been a suicide truck attack in Kabul killing over 150 people for which Afghanistan had put the blame on Pakistan. No group including the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack. Ghani has often accused Pakistan of waging an “undeclared war” against Afghanistan. Last week, there was a meeting between Ghani and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the sidelines of SCO Summit in Astana where they agreed to use the QCG mechanism as well as bilateral channels to undertake specific actions against terrorism. China has a special interest in ensuring that its ambitious One Belt One Road goes ahead unimpeded by security issues arising from Pak-Afghan tensions. China enjoys good relations with both Pakistan and Afghanistan and is better placed than any other country to play a mediatory role. However, peace in Afghanistan cannot be ensured unless Afghan Taliban agree to join such a process. There is no indication that they are willing to do so except on their own terms.
Terrorism raised its ugly head in Saudi Arabia this week when, shockingly, the holiest Muslim shrine, the Grand Mosque of Makkah, was the seeming target. On June 24, Saudi security forces disrupted a plot to attack the Grand Mosque. It is particularly crowded in the month of Ramadan when pilgrims from all over the world congregate there. The Saudi security forces launched raids in Jeddah as well as two areas in Makkah. There was a shootout with a suicide bomber who blew himself up, leading to the building’s collapse, causing casualties, including six foreign pilgrims. The Interior Ministry said it had thwarted the terrorist plan by those who had “obeyed their evil and corrupt self-serving schemes managed from abroad whose aim is to destabilize the security and stability” of Saudi Arabia. Five suspects were arrested. Since 2014, there have been periodic terrorist incidents in Saudi Arabia, claimed by ISIS (Daesh).
Terrorist incidents have also hit Britain recently. On June 19, a white driver rammed his van into Muslim worshippers of a Mosque in London, causing one death, and many injuries. He was heard shouting “I am going to kill all Muslims. You deserve it. I did my bit.” Remarkably, the assailant was saved from lynching by Imam of the mosque. British Prime Minister May said the attack was “every bit as sickening” as other recent terrorist attacks. However, no condemnation came from President Trump who is usually quick to condemn every act involving Muslim terrorists. Islamophobia is growing in the West.
A shocking instance was that of a Hijab-clad Muslim girl in Virginia, USA, who was killed on June 18 by a white supremacist, soon after attending prayers in a mosque. Anti-Muslim crimes in USA rose sharply in 2015, and increased a further 44% from 180 to 260 in 2016. Terrorism is growing alarmingly in the West as well as in Muslim societies. Its causes are diverse, but must be condemned unreservedly by all right-thinking people. Terrorism is the greatest menace that humanity is facing at this time.
— The writer served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, the ex-Soviet Union, France, Nigeria and Libya.