Pakistan does 'more than its share' to fight terror
Pakistan is doing “more than its share” in the fight against terrorism, the country’s minister of foreign affairs said on Friday after agreeing to cooperate with South-East Asian nations against the violence.
Khurshid Kasuri said his country’s commitment to the fight against terrorism is complete.
“We are serving the national interest of Pakistan. We are not doing it because the United States or any other country is asking us to do that. Not at all,” he said in an interview.
Pakistani security forces have rounded up hundreds of suspected militants and Islamic clerics in a week-long crackdown that followed July 7 attacks in which four bombers killed at least 56 people in London, including themselves.
President Pervez Musharraf has come under pressure from fundamentalist Islamic groups, including the six-party alliance Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which called the crackdown “state terrorism” and accused Musharraf of being a Western puppet.
Kasuri said instability would threaten Pakistan’s growth, which was 8,4% last year, second only to China in Asia.
“Terrorist acts will obviously create conditions of instability.
So, it is absolutely wrong, the propaganda by the opposition against us that we are doing it to please the US or anybody else,” he said on the sidelines of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (Asean) Regional Forum (ARF).
A group representing religious schools has said the country will face “dire consequences” unless the crackdown ends.
“They will make attempts,” Kasuri said. “But when such an overwhelming majority of the ordinary population is opposed to acts of terrorism, they will remain confined and the mischief will not spread.”
Two of the four London bombers visited Pakistan together in 2003 before making another trip last year, a Pakistani intelligence officer searching for local links to the attacks has said.
“They were British-born. Simply to say that they went for a month to X, Y, Z place shouldn’t make that much of a material difference,” the minister said.
The ARF was established in 1994 to foster dialogue and consultation on political and security issues.
It groups the 10-member Asean with 15 dialogue partners including India, the US, Japan and China, in addition to Pakistan, which joined last year.
Kasuri said a declaration on cooperation to combat terrorism signed with Asean on Friday will mean better intelligence sharing and, most importantly, cooperation and coordination.
Other signatories are Australia, China, the European Union, India, Japan, Russia, the US, New Zealand and South Korea.
Kasuri said such agreements are a short-term response, but in the long term the roots of terrorism must be addressed.
“You need to remove a sense of grievance among the large number of Muslims, that there are many areas where justice is not being done,” he said, citing the Palestinian issue as the most important.
Terrorism is a particular concern for Pakistan, where al-Qaeda-linked militants are alleged to be hiding in remote tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan.
However, Pakistani analysts say homegrown militant groups pose a graver threat to the country and its image abroad. Al-Qaeda has never been an entrenched force in Pakistan, they said.
Analysts also point out that while Musharraf may be sincere in cracking down on extremists, support for radicals is entrenched in parts of the establishment.
Kasuri denied that, saying the Pakistani armed forces, administration and political parties are fully behind the fight against terrorism.
Asked whether other countries at the ARF have asked about Pakistan’s crackdown on alleged extremists, Kasuri replied: “They haven’t asked me because they know that Pakistan is doing more than its share. We are doing whatever is required to do.”
Foreign nationals to be expelled
Musharraf on Friday said all the estimated 1 400 foreign nationals studying in the country’s madrassas will have to leave the Islamic seminaries.
“All foreigners are to be removed” from Pakistan’s more than 10 000 madrassas, Musharraf told reporters, and no new visas will be issued to non-Pakistanis wishing to study in the seminaries and Islamic prayer schools.
The ban will also apply to holders of dual nationality.
“An ordinance to this effect will be adopted in the next coming days,” Musharraf said.
He also reiterated that all Islamic prayer schools in the country will have to register with the government by the end of the year.—Sapa-AFP