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Pakistani Ambassador Rifat Iqbal visits UL
"The Role of Pakistan in Deterring Terrorism"

On invitation by the Irish Peace Society, the Pakistani Ambassador, her Excellency Mrs Rifat Iqbal, held an interesting presentation on the role of Pakistan in deterring terrorism on 11 April, with a lively discussion with the a large student body who attended on this sunny Friday afternoon. Mrs. Iqbal accentuated two different aspects of terrorism: first, in a worldwide context and the Pakistani contribution on the 'war on terrorism', and the second part was focussed on the protracted conflict in Kashmir.

A problem in general when talking about 'terrorism', is its flimsy definition: concepts of terrorism are not only widely used for political ends, subject to one's own definition accordingly, but even academics cannot agree on what constitutes terrorism. Iqbal refers to terrorism as "senseless acts of violence", where the idea of 'senseless' is subject to one's own definition. A similar problem arises with 'innocent victims': can a person be truly innocent, or are there different degrees of culpability? Another aspect she stressed is the present link, expressed by certain politicians and media, between terrorism and religion, Islam in particular, as a clash of civilizations; this interpretation is wholly incorrect. In, say, the 1980s, it was commonplace to link terrorism to the Red Network (i.e. Russia being behind all terrorism). Who knows, maybe in 10-15 years people look back on these times as 'ah, yes, the subjective interpretation in that era of terrorism was to link it to religion'.
Notwithstanding definitions, Iqbal identified the root causes of terrorism as "deprivation, denying people their basic rights, oppression, sense of despair and foreign occupation", which will need to be addressed to combat terrorism. Parallel to these long-term goals, it is an imperative to "eliminate the terrorist menace" and to "win the war against terrorists" on a shot term basis. Pakistan was suffering from retaliation by Al-Qa'ida before 9/11 (which she linked to the 2 million Afghan refugees residing in the country) and with extra resources offered by the US afterwards, Pakistan, having 7000 troops deployed for this purpose, has captured 420 Al-Qa'ida members.

The second tier of the presentation was about the Kashmiri region, as "the root cause between Pakistan and India", where Iqbal made a clear distinction between terrorism and freedom fighters: Pakistan denounces terrorism, but does provide political and moral support for the Kashmiri struggle and places an emphasis on the requirement to implement existing UN resolutions related to the conflict, which has not happened as of yet, as well as the wider UN resolution (G.A. Res. 3103) on the right to self-determination and independence, which is, from the perspective of Pakistan, applicable to the Kashmiri struggle.

Overall, it was an honour to have hosted her Excellency's first visit to UL and it was a stimulating presentation with an equally interesting questions and answer session afterwards.

This article was written by Marijke Keet, Irish Peace Society, and published in: An Focal, Edition 13, week 11 Semester 2 02/03, p24.

Created on: 17 April 2003
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