ISLAMABAD: Expressing alarm over the territorial gains made by militants in Afghanistan, Russian envoy to Pakistan Alexey Dedov asked certain ‘partner’ countries to shun double standards in the fight against terrorism, without specifying who he was talking about.

“We call on our partners to abandon double standards in the fight against terror and abandon attempts to [classify] terrorists as good and bad,” the Russian ambassador said at a seminar on Countering Violent Extremism, organized by the Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies in collaboration with German think tank Konrad Adenauer Stiftung.

Mr Dedov’s comments were echoed by Chinese diplomat Yu Xueyong, who also spoke at the seminar. “All countries should cooperate without employing double standards and selectivity,” Mr Yu said.

In his speech, Mr Dedov cautioned against the policy of dividing Taliban into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and said that if the concerned countries did not correct their course, the scenes witnessed in Iraq and Libya would repeat themselves in Afghanistan.

Mr Dedov said that militants’ progress in Northern Afghanistan, which borders the Central Asian Republics, was of particular concern to Moscow.

The Russian envoy’s remarks came as 65 villages in the Raghistan district of Badakhshan province fell to the Taliban over the past few days. The militant onslaught in Northern Afghanistan is of particular concern to Russia because it involves Chechen, Tajik, Kazakh and Uzbek militants.

“Countering the threat emanating from Afghanistan is important for the region’s security,” he underscored.

He suggested that the way forward was in extending “well-coordinated political support” to the Afghan government for recommencing reconciliation process in Afghanistan for creating peace and stability there.

The reconciliation process Pakistan began facilitating in July stalled after disclosures about Mullah Omar’s death. Islamabad has again offered to assist restart the process, but Kabul seems cautious about the proposal.

About regional cooperation against terrorism, Mr Dedov said Russia supports China’s initiative for preparing the draft Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) convention regarding the fight against extremism.

“We want SCO to play greater role in developing international counter-terrorism cooperation under the aegis of the UN,” he added.

The fight against terrorism, religious extremism and separatism is one of the top priorities for SCO because these threats pose a real danger to the region and beyond, the Russian ambassador remarked.

The Chinese diplomat, meanwhile, also praised Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and said that these efforts deserved international recognition.

“We expect that Zarb-e-Azb would make further achievements to create favourable conditions for economic development,” he said. China is willing to continue cooperation with Pakistan for ensuring regional peace and stability, the diplomat said.

Hassan Belal Zaidi adds: Addressing the closing session of the two-day seminar, Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch blamed the creation of violent extremists in Pakistan on the West-centric policies of two ‘individuals’ – thinly-veiled references to Gen Ziaul Haq and Gen Pervez Musharraf – who “could not win the support of the people, so they sought the support of the Americans”.

He insisted that extremism was not a Islamic phenomenon, as was being portrayed, and recounted some of the greatest follies of man, such as the two world wars, as examples of extremism displayed by those of other faiths.

Speaking about the Karachi operation, he said that certain political parties who had pursued the policy of maintaining militant wings had been “given the realisation that they will be forced to abandon this policy” and that they could not rely on terror to get votes. “The government would [welcome their] return to parliament,” he said.

Talking about his home province, he said, “Balochistan was a problem. Balochistan is a problem. But we’re doing our utmost to resolve the issues there.” He said that in terms of area, his constituency was nearly as big as all of Khyber Paktunkhwa and Fata combined, but that no major development schemes had been implemented in the areas since 1947.

However, he said, one positive development was that people who were previously talking about secession from Pakistan had now come back to the negotiating table.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2015

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