Pakistan's Views on Terrorism
Ambassador Asif Ezdi
Pakistani Ambassador to Germany
I would like to begin by expressing my appreciation to the organizers of this workshop for giving me the opportunity to speak to this gathering of distinguished personalities from the Euro-Atlantic community and Russia. I feel especially honored because I understand that this is the first time that a representative of Pakistan is speaking at the International Workshop on Global Security. It is a sign of the globalization of security that has taken place following the terrorist attacks of September 11.
The United States was the direct and immediate target of those attacks. But their perpetrators also had a broader aim: to heighten political and cultural divisions in the rapidly globalizing world of the 21st century and, more specifically, to bring about sharper antagonism and discord between the Islamic and the Western worlds-Huntington's "clash of civilizations."
Pakistan joined the rest of the world in strongly condemning the terrorist attacks of September 11 and expressed its solidarity with the victims. Because of our geographic location neighboring on Afghanistan, we were called upon to play a significant role in the international campaign for the eradication of the Al-Qaeda network. We readily joined the international coalition against terror with the resources at our disposal.
Terrorism poses a challenge to the whole world. The motives that drive terrorists are complex, and fighting this evil by military means, though necessary, will not be enough. We must also work together on other fronts: political, economic, cultural, and intellectual.
Pakistan itself has been a victim of violence and terrorism sponsored from abroad. We support concerted, comprehensive, and sustained action by the international community to eradicate this scourge, to address its root causes, and to remove the conditions that create a breeding ground for terrorist forces.
We reject the notion of a clash of civilizations. We are for dialogue and understanding between Islam and the West. After September 11, constructive engagement between these two great world cultures has become even more important than before.
September 11 has been called a defining moment in history, like the end of the Cold War. It is perhaps appropriate to ask ourselves why the soil of Afghanistan, where the last great contest of the Cold War took place, became the home of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. To answer this question, we must go back to the occupation of Afghanistan by a neighboring superpower in 1979. Ten years later, the Afghan people, supported by the Islamic world and by the West, were able to force the foreign troops to withdraw. The fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe followed soon after.
I mention these facts because the vital part played by the Afghan freedom fighters in bringing about the end of the Cold War is sometimes forgotten. The Afghans fought at a terrible cost to themselves: more than a million Afghans were killed; about five to six million were forced to leave the country and live as refugees, mostly in Pakistan and Iran; countless others were displaced internally; the political, administrative, and economic infrastructure of the country was destroyed; and the intellectual elite left the country in search of better opportunities in the West.
The task of reconstructing this devastated country after the withdrawal of foreign forces proved to be beyond the capacity of the Afghans themselves. The millions of refugees who had left for neighboring countries, in particular those who had the skills to rebuild the country, could not return. There was no Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. The West, having won its strategic goals, walked away. The rest, as they say, is history: the emergence of warlords, civil war, interference by outside forces, and, in 1996 the establishment of Taliban supremacy.
The effects of the unsettled conditions in Afghanistan spilled over into Pakistan. Besides the three million refugees who entered Pakistan, illegal arms and narcotics were smuggled into the country. And terrorist attacks were sponsored from abroad as "punishment" for our support of the Afghan freedom struggle.
PAKISTAN'S EFFORTS TO FIGHT TERRORISM
During the Taliban rule, Al-Qaeda was able to establish itself in Afghanistan and to expand its network in other parts of the world. After September 11, when it became apparent to us that the perpetrators of the terrorist attacks had their patrons in Afghanistan, we made every effort to bring home the seriousness of the situation to the Taliban leadership, and urged them to cooperate with the international community in the elimination of the Al-Qaeda network. These efforts were unsuccessful.
However, Pakistan's decision to join the international coalition against terrorism was in keeping with our conviction that the scourge of terrorism poses a threat to all civilized societies, that it cannot be justified in the name of any cause, and that each country must contribute, in accordance with its capabilities and resources, to eliminate this evil.
A small but vocal group was opposed to our government's decision, because the group felt joining the coalition was inconsistent with our obligations to a friendly and fraternal neighbor. However, the vast majority of Pakistanis gave silent support by refusing to join the opposition. A descent into chaos, which some of our friends abroad were worried about and which those not so friendly to us were hoping for, did not take place. The international community also acclaimed Pakistan's decision.
Once the Afghan people were liberated from the oppressive restrictions imposed by the Taliban, the scenes of happiness further undercut support for the extremists. This encouraged the government to move faster and more vigorously to curb extremism and militancy. Further measures were announced by President Musharraf on January 12, 2002, to curb violence in the society. These measures included the reform and modernization of the school system, a crackdown on groups engaged in fomenting violence and militancy, and an end to the misuse of mosques for spreading inflammatory propaganda.
THE NATURE OF TERRORISM AND TERRORISTS
Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, there has been talk of "Islamic terrorism." This is unfortunate. Terrorism has no religion or ethnicity. Islam is a religion of peace, of compassion, and of tolerance, one in which human life is sacred and the killing of innocent people is abhorred. The doctrine of Jihad does not allow the taking of innocent lives.
The first phase of the international campaign against Al-Qaeda is now drawing to a close. The root causes of terrorism must be addressed in the next phase. These causes are basically political: illegal occupation, denial of basic rights, and so on. Often, the victims of gross injustice and repression turn to acts of desperation in their hopelessness.
Terror must be condemned in all its forms and manifestations, no matter who the perpetrator is, whether an individual, a group, or a state. Those who employ the state apparatus to trample upon the fundamental rights of people are also perpetrators of terrorism. Repression and atrocities committed by occupation forces, as in Kashmir, cannot be condoned simply because their perpetrators are following state policy. In fact, state-sponsored terrorism is even more reprehensible than acts of terrorism committed by individuals, because states are expected to meet higher standards of responsible, civilized behavior. Moreover, a distinction must be made between acts of terrorism on the one hand and the struggle against illegal occupation on the other hand. We should not allow any country to exploit the label of terrorism to discredit legitimate movements for self-determination as in Kashmir and Palestine.
THE NEED TO SUPPORT AFGHANISTAN
After a decade of foreign occupation and another decade of civil war and Taliban rule, Afghanistan needs the generous and sustained support of the international community for its reconstruction. We are confident that after the destruction of the Al-Qaeda network, the international community will remain engaged in Afghanistan and assist the Afghan people in rebuilding their country.
No country, other than Afghanistan itself, has suffered more from the conflict in Afghanistan than Pakistan has; and no country, other than Afghanistan, has a greater stake in the return of peace and stability to Afghanistan. We have assured the Afghan interim administration of our support and cooperation. We have also pledged $100 million worth of assistance toward Afghanistan's immediate rehabilitation and reconstruction needs.
EASING TENSIONS WITH INDIA
Recent events have drawn the attention of the world to the perennial tensions between Pakistan and India and the threat these tensions pose to the peace and stability of the region. As everyone acknowledges, Kashmir is the root cause of these tensions. Kashmir is also now part of the global agenda. The 12 million people of Kashmir want nothing more than, and will accept nothing less than, the right to determine their own future in accordance with U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Pakistan is prepared for a dialogue with India to resolve the Kashmir dispute and all other outstanding issues. We have proposed international monitoring of the Line of Control to investigate Indian allegations of infiltration. We are ready to take mutual steps to de-escalate the current tensions. We have proposed the creation of a Strategic Restraint Regime in South Asia that will provide for nuclear as well as conventional arms balance. We have called for a formalization of the moratoriums on further nuclear testing that both Pakistan and India have declared. We are for the non-deployment of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
We are still waiting for a positive response from India to these proposals. While we wait, we intend to continue our efforts for a tension-free relationship with India. We know that the whole world wants these efforts to succeed.
In the wake of September 11 and subsequent developments, some of the incorrect impressions about Pakistan have been corrected. No one speaks now of the threat of radicalization in Pakistan, or Talibanization, as it used to be called. Pakistan's credentials as a moderate Islamic country firmly on the way to modernization have been proved, and those who entertained apprehensions about political stability there have been proved wrong. The country has demonstrated its resilience by weathering a domestic storm and neutralizing external threats. The process of economic recovery and reform is on course, and the road map for a democratic parliamentary system of government is being followed. Tangible progress has been made in the de-radicalization of society.
The international community is now aware of the strategic importance of the region surrounding Afghanistan. There is a willingness to engage with countries of the region in a positive way and to assist in their economic development, the promotion of peace and stability, and the resolution of disputes. Pakistan occupies a pivotal location in the region and can be counted upon as a reliable and responsible partner in these endeavors.