ISTANBUL: Describing terrorism and violent extremism as a “global phenomenon”, President Mamnoon Hussain on Thursday called for comprehensive policies and international cooperation to counter these menaces.
“Recent tragic incidents, from Brussels to Lahore and from Paris to Ankara, have once again reminded us that terrorism and violent extremism are a global phenomenon, not confined to any country or region,” the President said while addressing the 13th Islamic Summit of OIC, being hosted by Turkey here from April 14 to 15.
He said terrorism and extremism had nothing to do with religion, nationality, creed or ethnicity, adding, “countering them requires comprehensive policies and increased international cooperation.”
The President said Pakistan’s sacrifices and contribution for countering terrorism were unmatched. “We condemn terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Our counter-terrorism operation “Zarb-e-Azb” is successfully progressing towards the goal of eliminating all terrorists,” he added.
He said the Muslim world was deeply concerned at the continuing and deliberate attempts to defame Islam and denigrate our Holy Prophet (Peace Be Upon Him) and our religious symbols.
“There are increasing instances of religious intolerance and discrimination against Muslims, especially Muslim minorities.
We condemn Islamophobia, xenophobia and hate speech.”
The President said Pakistan attached high importance to the freedom of expression but “we stand equally committed to the concern, shared by OIC member states that it should not be misused to attack or hurt people’s sentiments or religious beliefs.”
He said the world needed more than ever, a culture of tolerance and co-existence in societies. Pakistan has participated and will continue to contribute towards promoting inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, he added.
The President during his address, besides speaking on the challenges faced by Muslim Ummah, matters of regional and international importance, also highlighted the need of just resolution of the disputes of Kashmir and Palestine.
President Mamnoon Hussain said the Islamic Summit was being held at a time when the Muslim Ummah was facing unprecedented threat to its fraternity and harmony, adding, the selection of the theme of the Summit – “Unity and Solidarity for Justice and Peace”, therefore was most relevant and timely.
“It is unfortunate that from amongst us, some dark forces harboring detestable notions, are trampling on fundamental human values. Their brutality and savagery is repelling. Our hearts bleed when they seek to justify their brutality in the name of our noble religion,” he added.
The President said the Muslim countries must not allow the divisive schemes of these negatives forces to succeed. “We must all hold fast together and resolve our differences through consultations amongst ourselves,” he added.
He said the challenges, confronting the Muslim world, were enormous. “We are proud inheritors of a civilization that was a trail-blazer in science and technology, art and culture and philosophy. Sadly, today we are suffering, in many parts, from underdevelopment, illiteracy and backwardness. ”
The President said, “Collectively, we need to focus on reclaiming our roles as harbingers of positive change. We must establish peace in our own societies, promote respect for differing views and curb any tendency to impose our views on others.”
He said for the peace and security of the world, it was equally critical to shed colonial legacies of today’s polity and to rectify the historic injustices.
The President said Pakistan opposes foreign domination of Muslim people and occupation of their territories, as well as denial of their right to self-determination.
He said an immediate, just and fair resolution of the Palestinian question was critical for peace, especially in the Middle East, adding, Pakistan’s support to Palestinian brothers has remained unreserved and firm.
“We will continue to support the people of Palestine in their struggle for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state, with Al-Quds Al-Sharif as its capital”, he added.
The President said the unresolved Jammu and Kashmir Dispute was the other longstanding dispute of concern to the Muslim Ummah.
“The people of this occupied territory look towards the OIC Member States’ further continued support to their just struggle for their right to self-determination and the settlement of the issue in accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council”, he added.
The President said that Pakistan would continue to extend its political, diplomatic and moral support to the valiant people of the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir, in their peaceful efforts for achieving their right to self-determination.
President Mamnoon Hussain said it was unfortunate to see extremism of different shades and colours rear its ugly head in various parts of the world. It seemed clear that intolerant ideologies were growing worldwide, and with them the levels of violence, he added.
He said tendency of associating Islam with violence was unfortunate and projecting a flawed understanding of Islam or killing innocent people in the name of religion were both un-condonable travesties.
He said equally reprehensible are different manifestations of Islamophobia and added that peace, moderation, compassion and tolerance were the essence of Islam.
He said it was the collective responsibility not to allow any misguided elements within our fold, to define Islam to the world through their misguided actions. In this regard, among others, the role of intellectuals, academics, religious scholars and youth is very important, he added.
“In the case of Pakistan, we have evolved a comprehensive National Action Plan with the consensus of all stakeholders to eradicate extremism and terrorism. We are simultaneously taking other measures while the internationally acclaimed military operation Zarb-e-Azb is ongoing,” the President said.
He said Pakistan had reviewed laws and improved the judicial process to ensure speedy justice. The country was also reforming the education system, particularly religious education, and have taken stronger measures against hate speech.
He said effective efforts were also underway to squeeze the financial resources of terrorists, which required international cooperation as well.
“We are rebuilding areas affected by terrorism and are offering scholarships to deserving students from under-developed areas. Similarly, we have initiated skills development programnes for the educated youth that offer them better job prospects. These efforts are yielding successful result,” he added.
Responding to another question, President Mamnoon said the leadership of both Pakistan and Turkey had a shared vision of transforming traditionally cordial ties into a robust economic partnership.
In order to further boost Pakistan’s commercial ties, both the countries needed to have enhanced legal and institutional arrangements.
In pursuance of this goal, both the countries recently signed a framework agreement for concluding a comprehensive free trade agreement between Pakistan and Turkey, which covered the trade in goods, services and investments.
“I have directed our concerned departments to pursue negotiations on a fast-track basis and will complete them by September of this year. Once concluded, this will substantially enhance bilateral trade and help both countries to optimally realize the potential that the big economies of Pakistan and Turkey have to offer,” President Mamnoon said.
To a query, the President said Pakistan had welcomed the lifting of sanctions on Iran that had opened new avenues for enhancing economic interaction.
During the visit of Iranian President Dr. Hassan Rouhani, last month, the two countries signed six agreements on promoting bilateral cooperation in various fields.
Both the countries also decided to increase the annual bilateral trade volume to $5 billion within the next five years and the operationalization of the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline was a priority that would help the latter to meet its growing energy needs, he added.