Khawaja Asif’s ‘terror-groups’ statement undermines Pakistan’s counter-terror efforts

Image source: Dawn News

In a statement that gained global media attention, Pakistan’s foreign minister Khawaja Asif inadvertently admitted to presence of terror groups in the country and called for more action towards such elements.

Asif – on this occasion – sanctified ‘questionable’ criticism of the Pakistan on all accounts. His statement also had a contradiction where he failed to explain whether his criticism was directed towards his own government or the military establishment.

In his statement, the foreign minister said, “I am not making any political statement… we cannot afford to shut our eyes on activities of these organisations in our country. If we continue to do that we will always face such embarrassments. We’ve no stakes involved but are only carrying the baggage of our past follies. We cannot correct ourselves as long as we do not accept historical facts,”

The statement was also quickly taken up by all media outlets in neighbouring India, with headlines such as:

  • Foreign minister Khawaja Asif accepts terror groups like LeT and JeM are an ’embarrassment’ for Pakistan (Indian Express),
  • Pakistan admits that terror outfits Lashkar, Jaish are operating from its soil (India Today), and
  • Pakistan minister Khawaja Asif admits Islamabad must crack down on terrorists (First Post)

Asif’s statement, thus, helped the Indian media pursue its narrative and campaign against Pakistan, using it to undermine Pakistan’s counter-terror efforts since 2001. The new Foreign Minister is still settling-in in his new role, trying to juggle between local political dynamics and international lobbying for Pakistan, thus making statements that are putting Pakistan in an awkward position internationally.

Asif’s statement drew strong critique not only from various circles in the country, but also from his own PML-N colleague Chaudhry Nisar, who not only rejected the approach of ‘setting our house in order’, but also argued that such statements undermine Pakistan’s sacrifices and efforts in the war on terror.

It is worth noting the after Trump’s criticism of Pakistan, both Russia and China came in support of Pakistan acknowledging its role and sacrifices in countering terrorism in the country. Theresa May, the British Prime Minister, also on her visit to India last year praised Pakistan’s sacrifices during the ongoing War on Terror.

Additionally, not only has Pakistan more than 60,000 lives in this war, but has also incurred losses over a $100 billion financially, mainly due to lack of security pushing foreign investors away from the country.

Asif, being the country’s foreign minister and an influential leader of the ruling party, is in a position to influence his government and engage the ministry of defense to actively work on the National Action Plan against terror groups in the country. Very few Pakistanis would now buy into the narrative of blaming the military for everything and providing little policy solutions.

© Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) and Afghan Studies Center (ASC), Islamabad.

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