• Khawaja Asif calls for unity in fight against terrorism

    Defence Minister Khawaja Asif File photo Defence Minister Khawaja Asif

    Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Tuesday called for unity in the fight against terrorism, saying that it was time for Pakistan to set its “house in order”.

    He expressed the views while speaking on the floor of the National Assembly, a day after a suicide blast at a mosque in Peshawar claimed 100 lives and injured dozens.

    At the outset of his speech, the minister said that a war was fought against terrorism from 2010- 2017. “This war started from Swat during the PPP’s tenure and it was concluded during the PML-N’s previous tenure, and peace was established in the country from Karachi to Swat.

    “But if you remember, a year-and-a-half or two years ago […] we were given a briefing two, three times in this same hall in which it was clearly stated that talks could be carried out against these people and they can be brought toward peace.”

    Asif said varying opinions had risen on the matter but despite that no “conclusive decision” was taken.

    “But during this time, thousands of people who were left unemployed after the Afghan war settled in Pakistan.” He said the first proof of this surfaced when the people of Swat protested against the people who were resettled.

    He noted that the people of Wana had also protested and expressed similar emotions. “I am mentioning theses incidents because the tragedy that occurred yesterday […] the terrorist was standing in the frontline during Zuhr prayers where he detonated himself.”

    Asif said the prime minister and the army chief visited Peshawar yesterday where they were given a briefing on the attack. “But this is a tragedy where we require the same resolve and unity which was expressed in 2011-2012.

    “I will not talk for long but I will say briefly that at the start, we sowed the seeds for terrorism.”

    He said that when Russia invaded Afghanistan, Pakistan offered its services to the United States “on rent”. “General Zia was the ruler at the time […] the agreement made with the US went on for eight to nine years after which the US went back to Washington celebrating the fact that Russia was defeated.”

    He said that Pakistan was left to deal with the aftermath for the next 10 years. “Once those ten years passed, 9/11 happened. A threat was received from there […] and we became involved in another war.”

    The minister said that Pakistan’s involvement in these two wars had spilled over into “our homes, our bazaars, our schools and public places”.

    Talking about the 2009 Parade Lane mosque attack, he said those kids were targeted whose fathers were commanding the operation in Swat at the time.

    “It was a faulty decision when these people were brought and resettled now, one or two years ago. This was a continuation of a policy that proved to be disastrous. These people have not seen peace. If we want them to come and live in a peaceful society then this is our misunderstanding.”

    He said that worshippers weren’t martyred during prayers even in India or Israel but it happened in Pakistan.

    Asif questioned who would be held accountable for the blood that was spilled yesterday in Peshawar. “This is a moment where we need introspection, we need to see where we stand. Why were these people brought? And this [attack] is not being condemned the way it should be.”

    The minister said that the entire nation needed to be united against terrorism, only then could it be fought against. “This is not the war of a particular sect or segment, this is the Pakistani nation’s war.”

    He said that Pakistan’s history bore witness to the fact that there was differentiation in this war, adding that everything had fallen prey to “confusion”.

    “Terrorism doesn’t differentiate between any religion or sect. Terrorism is used in the name of religion to take precious lives.”

    The minister said that this shouldn’t remain a debate and called on the House to guide the government in how terrorism could be tackled.

    He further said that terrorism had seeped into our way of life and the way we talked, pointing towards how the nation’s temperament had changed over the past four to five years.

    He said that if bases were being used in Afghanistan, it was a liability for Pakistan “directly or indirectly”. “We wish good upon Afghanistan. It is our neighboring country. If they have peace that means we will also have peace. But the look at what we have done in the past.”

    He said that 450,000 Afghanis had come to Pakistan in the past 1.5 years on valid documents and had not gone back. “I am giving you an official figures. They crossed the border and came into Pakistan on valid documents and they have not gone back.

    “Who is a terrorist and who is not, I can’t say anything about that.” The minister said that Afghan refugees were present in small cities across the country.

    He said that Pakistan was helping Afghanistan in terms of trade but the latter had stated in the Doha agreement that its would not be used for terrorism against any other country.

    “But because these people fought with them in the wars against US and its allies, they are repaying their debts and are turning a blind eye to whatever they are doing in Pakistan from across the border.”

    Asif said that Pakistan had laid the course for this destruction. “We should have good relations with the US, of course […] but we shouldn’t fight wars on their orders or for their international influence.

    “We must put our house in order first. Our house is not in order.”