Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, speaking at an international conference, on Sundy said that measures such as the recent travel ban imposed by United States on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries is not beneficial in the fight against terrorism but is fueling it further.
He was speaking in a panel discussion, titled ‘Countering Radical Extremism and Terrorism’, at the three-day-long Munich Security Conference 2017, where he denounced the term “Islamic terrorism”, adding that terrorism should not be associated with any religion.
“I have heard the term Islamic terrorism maybe a dozen times today. President Trump uses it quite frequently,” the defence minister said. “With all due respect, with all humility on my disposal, this ban on seven states, whatever perceptions the US has, has not helped the fight against terrorism.”
“If the policies of the west are going to be isolationist or exclusive, it won’t help the fight against terrorism, it will fuel terrorism,” he added.
“Terrorists aren’t Christians or Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus. They are terrorists, they are criminals,” Asif said, adding that branding terrorism as “Islamic terrorism” fuels Islamophobia and adds to the problem.
Commenting on concerns relating to hosting refugees, he said “Europeans and the US feel threatened” by the incoming wave of refugees as they fear their political system would be “destabilised”.
“We are states that are handicapped by our bad economies, our law and order situations and meager resources, but we are fighting,” said Asif while comparing Pakistan’s situation with other countries.
He said that Pakistan has spent around $2 billion on fighting terrorism and has suffered more than 60,000 casualties, adding that regardless of the challenges, the country successfully repatriated 650,000 refugees that were there for more than three decades.
“This is something that can be replicated,” the defence minister said, adding a conducive environment must be created to allow the refugees to return to their homes. “But that is not possible for Syrians, Iraqis or the Libyans,” he added.
The defence minister further said if a country such as Pakistan can house refugees over a period of more than three decades “without any substantial aid from outside”, others can too.
He reiterated that an inclusive approach to fighting terrorism is essential, adding that the situation that displaced a person must be considered.
“One must audit and account whether these interventions have produced peace in our regions or whether these interventions have been counter-productive,” the defence minister added.
Asif called out the United States for welcoming the peace agreement between the Afghan government and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, “who was declared the butcher of Kabul and was branded as a terrorist”, saying the “dichotomy” is bothersome.
He said that the “contradiction lies with the west”, adding that it “glorified” terrorists, and “revered the jihad” in past conflicts.
“We were proxies for that war and now we are paying the price and being labeled as Islamic terrorists,” Asif added. “Pakistan is a front-line state in this war and it will continue to fulfill its obligations to its own people,” he said while giving an assurance to the the international community of Pakistan’s effort to curb terrorism. West responds to criticism against ‘Islamic terrorism’ German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said there is a need to establish “democratic Islam”, saying it is “perhaps, too late” to separate religion from terrorism as “terrorists claim themselves as Muslims”.