ISLAMABAD: As Islamophobia gains momentum in western capitals in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Pakistan sounded a word of caution and called for more “tolerance” and “interfaith harmony” saying that acts of terrorism cannot be blamed on Muslims.
The Foreign Office spokesman at the weekly media briefing to a query said that instead the focus must remain on targeting the real terrorists.
“I agree that hate crimes against Muslims have soared in the wake of recent terrorist attacks in Europe. We have always stressed the need for tolerance and interfaith harmony. Acts of terrorism committed in the name of Islam cannot be blamed on Muslims. Islam advocates peace and brotherhood. Terrorists have no religion. No one should be targeted on the basis of religion,” he said.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, Pope Francis told Muslim and Christian leaders that they have little choice but to engage in dialogue to guard against the “barbarous” extremist attacks that have struck Kenya recently, saying religious leaders must be advocates of peace in a world sown by hatred.
He insisted that religion can never be used to justify violence and lamented that “all too often, young people are being radicalized in the name of religion to sow discord and fear, and to tear at the very fabric of our societies”.
He said interfaith dialogue isn’t a luxury or optional, but is simply “essential”.The spokesman at the Foreign Office, meanwhile, also pointed at India and the case of Muslims who were being persecuted.
“We have already expressed our concern on activities of extremist and fundamentalist groups and organizations in India,” he said.In an unusual move, the Foreign Office instead of first summoning the high commissioner of Bangladesh, announced beforehand that the ministry would call in the Bangladesh high commissioner, in a tit for tat reaction.
Pakistan’s High Commissioner in Dhaka was recently summoned to condemn various statements coming from Islamabad related to the hangings of two Bangladeshi politicians.
“Pakistan and Bangladesh enjoy brotherly relations and share historic bonds. Our concern over the developments there are in that light. Our relations are independent of influence of any other country and do not depend on the state of Pakistan’s relations with any third country,” said the spokesman.
He emphasized on the fact that there is need for reconciliation in Bangladesh in accordance with the spirit of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh Agreement of 9 April 1974, which calls for a forward looking approach in matters relating to 1971.
“This would foster goodwill and harmony. We have emphasized this earlier as well. We have also expressed concern in the past with regard to developments in Bangladesh relating to events of 1971,” he added.
To a query, the spokesman clarified a news report that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif nearly called off his US visit.“Before a high-level visit, it is normal practice for the sides to engage on various issues in the bilateral context. Draft joint statement/communique is also subjected to the same process of bilateral consultations and its contents are negotiated. Each side has its own priorities and, in the process of negotiations, they reach a stage where the text is acceptable to both sides. This is what happened in the context of various issues that were discussed prior to and during the prime minister’s visit to the US,” the spokesman clarified.
To reports that India might get access into the NSG, the spokesman reiterated Pakistan’s position and said that the NSG should follow an “objective, equitable and non-discriminatory approach for admitting new members”.
He lauded and welcomed the recent remarks made by the NSG chair, Ambassador Rafael Grossi, widely reported in India during his visit last month, wherein he ruled out a “tailor made India-specific solution” for NSG membership.
“A high-level Pakistani delegation also held a constructive meeting with NSG Troika in Vienna. Pakistan, therefore, will continue to call for the adoption of a non-discriminatory and objective criteria-based approach on expansion of NSG membership for non-NPT countries,” said the spokesman.