WASHINGTON: Pakistan has welcomed President Barack Obama’s emphasis that terrorism is not linked to any religion, with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan saying this clear-cut stance would help the fight against terror.
It was a corroboration of Pakistan’s stand and a significant step in terms of clarity as well as towards forming a united front against militancy “we believe terrorists should be known by their misdeeds, and not by their religious affiliation,” Khan, who represented Pakistan at the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism, said.
The interior minister, flanked by Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States Jalil Abbas Jilani, was briefing journalists at the end of his three day visit to Washington.
The comments by Nisar Ali Khan follow Obama’s categorical articulation that militants like al-Qaeda and ISIS operatives do not represent Islam and that the United States is not at war with Islam.
During the visit, Nisar Ali Khan also had the opportunity to discuss cooperative Pakistan-U.S. ties and present Islamabad’s views and concerns about the region in meetings with U.S. National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry and Special Representative Daniel Feldman.
Khan said leaders at the Summit also shared Pakistan’s view that the underlying causes of terror “including political disputes” need to be addressed and that terrorism cannot be wiped out through military means alone.
The interior minister particularly referred to the Palestinian and Kashmir disputes as among the causes that breed extremism and militancy.
As a vital international player in counterterrorism, Pakistan meaningfully participated in the White House summit. He also reminded participants of the high cost the country has paid in terms of loss of human lives and economy.
The minister said on his return to Islamabad he would propose to the government to host a regional conference, where South Asian and regional countries could discuss ways to combat violent extremism comprehensively.
On his bilateral meetings with top American officials, Nisar Khan described them as “positive.”
During the meetings, the minister highlighted how Pakistan has been trying to grapple with the multiple challenges facing the country.
Nisar Khan also raised the issue of a country in the region not wanting to see improvement in Pakistan, and that there was evidence that it played a negative role in inflaming the fire of terror.
It is the U.S. prerogative to have relations with members of the international community but there is fallout for Pakistan in the United States’ advancing relations with India through certain agreements and that there is an imperative for Washington to maintain a strategic balance in the region, he said.
During the meetings, the interior minister also underlined the importance of clarity and coordination with regard to Afghanistan.
The U.S. officials were positive towards Pakistan, and recognized the country’s critical role and sacrifices in the fight against terror.
Citing the U.S. attention to Pakistani concerns, Nisar Khan said, President Obama had called Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif twice, once before and then again after the conclusion of his visit to New Delhi last month to take the Pakistani leader into confidence.
The U.S. acknowledges that Pakistan has a vital role and that Pakistan is a very important strategic partner of the international community.
When questioned that India wanted to highlight its often-propagated threat from Pakistan soil but failed to do so at the White House summit this week, the minister responded that contrastingly with the Indian infatuation on linking Pakistan to terror, wherever it might occur, Islamabad talks of solutions to problems.
He expressed the hope that Indian foreign secretary’s planned visit to Pakistan would lead to its logical conclusion for peace.
“We will meet the Indian foreign secretary with an open mind instead of indulging in a blame game, we will meet with an open mind.”
He hoped that New Delhi would also demonstrate a positive spirit, towards forging peace.
“We believe in peace and would like to have good relations but it take two to tango – I hope India will respond in the same manner.”