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Pakistan Foreign Minister calls for stronger stance against banned groups in country

Khwaja AsifISLAMABAD: Following the BRICS nations’ “regional security concern” over the militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif acknowledged the existence of such organisations, naming Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) among the internationally banned outfits operating from within Pakistan.

Asif was talking to senior journalist Shahzeb Khanzada on Geo News’ programme Aaj Shahzeb Khanzada Kay Sath on Tuesday night.

According to Asif, the BRICS concerns about the militant groups should not be considered as China’s official stance as other countries — Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa — are also a part of the group. He, however, hailed China’s role in ensuring that the declaration also highlighted the name of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, which he said is based in Afghanistan and carries out terrorism attacks in Pakistan.

With reference to the earlier BRICS conference in India — during which India reportedly lobbied to include the names of banned outfits in the declaration but failed due to the opposition by China — he said that “friends should not be tested [every time], particularly in the changed scenario”.

“Instead, we should impose some restrictions on the activities of elements like LeT and JeM, so that we can show the global community that we have put our house in order,” he said.

“We need to ask ourselves have we acted upon the National Action Plan (NAP) in letter and spirit? Did we take the measures we had decided on, besides Operation Zarb-i-Azb, Raddul Fassad and Khyber 4, during the last three years? Did we show the world that we acted according to the resolve we made in 2014?”

Clarifying the position of the state, he said that for the first time, the Foreign Ministry published an advertisement, requesting people to avoid donating hides of sacrificial animals to proscribed organisations, including the two mentioned.

“Despite all these efforts, in some isolated instances, the organisations were allowed [to collect hides] at some places,” he said.

He reiterated that Pakistan must put its affairs in order, given that the “entire world is pointing fingers towards us.”

“I am not making a political statement but telling you a fact: we will continue to face such embarrassment till the time we keep our eyes off these [militant] organisations in our country.”

“We need to make a clean break from our past; in 1979, we made a wrong decision and acted like a proxy for the entire next decade. After 9/11, we again made a wrong decision and adopted a war which was never ours. We have bore uncountable losses of lives and properties in this war,” he said.

Pakistan Army has done its part, said Asif, asking, “But did we do our work; did we implement the NAP, did we complete the process of de-radicalisation, did we bring the activities of banned outfits to a halt or are they active and even participating in politics with changed names?”

He rejected the narrative that the Pakistani soil is being used for terrorism, adding that “we will have to convince the world that Pakistan has nothing to do with the terrorism.”

Pakistan is currently facing international scrutiny with the US and the BRICS nations pinpointing its role in harboring terrorists in the country.

Last month, US President Donald Trump had lambasted Pakistan for being a “safe haven” for terrorists groups. Pakistan rejected his comments strongly, calling them “hostile and threatening”. -DN

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