Government of Pakistan, organized Pakistan’s first ever three-day conference titled Islamabad International Counter Terrorism Forum (IICTF-2018), envisaged on the theme Pakistan’s Endeavours and Achievements in Countering Extremism/Terrorism (PEACE). The theme for 2018 symbolizes Pakistan’s long struggle in bringing peace back to its people after facing a multitude of challenges on national and international fronts.
The IICTF-2018 was held during April 3rd to 5th, 2018 at Islamabad. Experts from all across the world were invited to attend the conference, including representatives from China, Russia, France, Saudi Arabia, Norway, Thailand, the United Kingdom and the United States. Scholars, experts, policy makers and politicians from Pakistan also took part in the IICTF-2018; making it a two-way communication and learning experience for scholars from within Pakistan, and beyond.
“The international community have to understand that what Pakistan is facing today is largely due to the failure of international community to discharge their obligations in the region, so therefore in order to fix the situation we need to work together not to point fingers, not to blame each other but to find opportunities of collaborations so that we can all pool our resources to bring peace to this region that has suffered for so long.” This was said by the Federal Minister for Interior, Professor Ahsan Iqbal in his inaugural speech at the occasion of Pakistan’s first ever International Counter Terrorism Forum (IICTF-2018), organized by National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA).
The Minister hailed NACTA’s efforts for holding such an important and prestigious international event, which actually made its name heard in the International Community.
Earlier, Mr. Ihsan Ghani, National Coordinator NACTA delivered his welcome address to the distinguished international and local guests. He apprised the honorable guests on what government of Pakistan entrusted the responsibilities in NACTA to deliver in countering extremism and terrorism. While addressing the audience he asserted that, “We should keep it in mind that the remarkable turnaround in the fight against terrorism has come about through concerted efforts of every single segment of the state and society”.
Mr. Ghani urged the foreign delegates to have an impartial assessment of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism during their stay in Pakistan for attending the three-day conference and carry stories of the courage of this nation along with them. “There is no denying the fact that countering extremism and terrorism is a shared international responsibility. It is in this spirit of sharing responsibility that we have gathered national and international experts for this Forum for a two-way sharing of lessons and experiences.” He added.
During the Day-2 proceedings of International Counter Terrorism Forum (IICTF-2018 .” National Security Advisor, Lt. Gen (R) Nasir Khan Janjua, said while talking to national and international audience “Besides many sacrifices and contributions, but unfortunately we are still being accused of supporting TTP and Haqqanis.
Lt. Gen (R) Nasir Khan Janjua lauded NACTA’s initiative of highlighting Pakistan’s efforts in counter extremism and counter terrorism to the world through first of its kind IICTF-2018 platform.
Mr. Afrasiab Khattak, a well-known senior politician of Awami National Party (ANP) also addressed the participants during the inaugural session of Day-2, titled; “Dynamics of Internal Security”. Mr. Khattak started his speech by hailing NACTA, claiming “I think NACTA has played a very important role during the last few years not only for coordinating the effort of the state in the fight against the terrorism but it has also contributed through mega consultative process and came up with a National Narrative and this international conference is yet another contribution by NACTA.” He added.
IICTF-2018 enlightened the international community what Pakistan have so far achieved in countering extremism and terrorism and what it had costed Pakistan. Today’s prominent national and foreign speakers were Dr. Anne Stenersan, Senior Researcher, Norwegian Defense Research Establishment, Mr. Clovis Baker, U.K. Counter Terrorism Expert, Mr. Cesar Guedes, Country Head UNODC, Mr. Ye Hailin, Chief editor of South Asia Studies, National Institute of International Strategy, Chines Academy of Social Sciences (NIIS, CASS), Beijing, Mr. Wang Lin, Journalist and expert on CPEC, Dr. Waqar Masood, Former Secretary Finance, Mr. Tariq Pervez, Ex- NC NACTA, Mr. Durrani, Former Chief Secretary, KPK, Mr. Mubarak Zeb, DIG CTD, KPK and Ms. Maryam Khan, EX-DG (Counter Violent Extremism) NACTA.
The IICTF-2018 was concluded with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, as Chief Guest. He delved into the issue of how terrorism invaded the borders of Pakistan, recalling a time when Pakistan was safe from terrorists and the infiltration of drugs. He said that the Afghan invasion brought major changes in the region, particularly impacting Pakistan. He then discussed the journey Pakistan has had in overcoming said challenges that penetrated Pakistan’s borders in the decades that followed the Afghan war. The Prime Minister further observed that no country wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan, countering all claims to the contrary. Pakistan suffers the most, he articulated, from instability in its bordering regions.
On the issue of terrorism in the South Asian region, the Prime Minister called special attention to terrorism permeating the Indian occupied Kashmir. He called upon the international community to accept the reality prevailing in Indian occupied Kashmir, whereby 17 young innocent lives were claimed in cold blood last Sunday. Mr. Abbasi stressed that the Kashmir issue can only be resolved through the implementation of the United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for a plebiscite in the area.
Noting that terrorism has now become a global challenge, the Prime Minister took pride in the fact that Pakistan has been victorious in defeating a monster, where the rest of the world has failed. Cities like Karachi that were once declared as one of the most dangerous cities in the world, have recovered from the catastrophe with courage and grace. Finally, The Prime Minister expressed his gratitude to all the participants for their invaluable contributions, and to NACTA for taking such a brave and essential initiative.
Mr. Ahsan Iqbal, the Interior Minister of Pakistan, who also graced the occasion, noted that although Pakistan has suffered from terrorism for a considerable time, it has also fought against the same with great valour and spirit. Remembering notable sacrifice of Aitzaz Ahsan Bangash, he paid a tribute to the unsung heroes of Pakistan who laid their lives in the cause of countering terrorism and extremism. Referring to the National Action Plan, the National Internal Security Policy 2014-2018, and the National Counter Extremism Policy Guidelines, he said that Pakistan has been engaging all factions of state in its devotion to countering terrorism and violent extremism. Looking forward, Mr. Iqbal noted that Pakistan is now looking towards stabilizing its future, relying on economic opportunities such as China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), enabling development not just in Pakistan, but in the whole region.
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Khawaja Asif discussed Pakistan’s vision for a democratic Pakistan, remarking that Pakistan was built upon the values of democracy, justice and fair play, as envisioned by Qauid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Referring to the nation’s fight against terrorism, Mr. Asif stressed on the need for a regional strategy to overcome the scourge of terrorism that is impacting the south Asian region in particular and the world at large. He called for cooperation with neighbouring countries, particularly in the field of countering terrorism to ensure long term peace and development on a regional and global level.
Ms. Sherry Rehman, Leader of the Opposition, Senate of Pakistan, gave valuable insights on the need for inclusion of women in all settings of society for a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan; presenting the remarkable notion that it’s not just a few good men that are needed to undo the effects of terrorism, but a lot of women involved in the process as well.
Mr. Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Member National Assembly and former Foreign Minister of Pakistan, discussing Pakistan’s march towards stability, shed light on the internal and external challenges faced by Pakistan. Despite such challenges however, he noted, Pakistan remains a resilient nation willing to fight back and reverse the effects left by terrorism and extremism.
The National Coordinator NACTA, Mr. Ihsan Ghani, who led this monumental effort for calling an international conference on the momentous subject of counter terrorism, thanked the participants and the speakers for honoring the occasion. He recalled some of the highlights of IICTF-2018 over the two days, observing that the discussions were holistic and had far-reaching implications. Albeit, he regretted, that each point could not be addressed in more detail due to constraints of time. Mr. Ghani further noted that the IICTF would be a recurring annual event with fresh themes allocated for each year, hoping that the process of learning, sharing and cooperating would only continue on a regional and global level.
The writer is an Associate Editor of Melange Magazine & Degree Holder in Communication & Media Study