Defence Minister Khawaja Asif said, while speaking at an international conference, that measures such as the recent travel ban imposed by United States on citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries is not beneficial in the fight against terrorism but is fueling it further.
Asif was speaking in a panel discussion, titled 'Countering Radical Extremism and Terrorism', at the three-day-long Munich Security Conference 2017, where he denounced the term "Islamic terrorism", adding that terrorism should not be associated with any religion.
"I have heard the term Islamic terrorism maybe a dozen times today. President Trump uses it quite frequently," the defence minister said. "With all due respect, with all humility on my disposal, this ban on seven states, whatever perceptions the US has, has not helped the fight against terrorism."
"If the policies of the west are going to be isolationist or exclusive, it won't help the fight against terrorism, it will fuel terrorism," he added.
"Terrorists aren't Christians or Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus. They are terrorists, they are criminals," Asif said, adding that branding terrorism as "Islamic terrorism" fuels Islamophobia and adds to the problem.
Asif on terrorism and refugees
Commenting on concerns relating to hosting refugees, he said "Europeans and the US feel threatened" by the incoming wave of refugees as they fear their political system would be "destabilised".
"We are states that are handicapped by our bad economies, our law and order situations and meager resources, but we are fighting," said Asif while comparing Pakistan's situation with other countries.
He said that Pakistan has spent around $2 billion on fighting terrorism and has suffered more than 60,000 casualties, adding that regardless of the challenges, the country successfully repatriated 650,000 refugees that were there for more than three decades.
"This is something that can be replicated," the defence minister said, adding a conducive environment must be created to allow the refugees to return to their homes. "But that is not possible for Syrians, Iraqis or the Libyans," he added.
The defence minister further said if a country such as Pakistan can house refugees over a period of more than three decades "without any substantial aid from outside", others can too.
He reiterated that an inclusive approach to fighting terrorism is essential, adding that the situation that displaced a person must be considered.
"One must audit and account whether these interventions have produced peace in our regions or whether these interventions have been counter-productive," the defence minister added.
Asif called out the United States for welcoming the peace agreement between the Afghan government and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, "who was declared the butcher of Kabul and was branded as a terrorist", saying the "dichotomy" is bothersome.
He said that the "contradiction lies with the west", adding that it "glorified" terrorists, and "revered the jihad" in past conflicts.
"We were proxies for that war and now we are paying the price and being labeled as Islamic terrorists," Asif added.
"Pakistan is a front-line state in this war and it will continue to fulfill its obligations to its own people," he said while giving an assurance to the the international community of Pakistan's effort to curb terrorism.
West responds to criticism against 'Islamic terrorism'
German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said there is a need to establish "democratic Islam", saying it is "perhaps, too late" to separate religion from terrorism as "terrorists claim themselves as Muslims".
Maizière added that though he understood the concerns of Pakistan's defence minister, he said that doing away with the term would make people say countries are "hiding the real background".
Echoing his sentiments, former French minister who had testified regarding the Paris attacks, Arnaud Montebourg said that while it is "absurd" to say "all Muslims are potential terrorists... it is absurd to not want to see a direct link between the use of one religion and the use of violence".
Montebourg said, "In this fight, we're going to need everybody. But in order to get everybody on board, let us not close our eyes to the reality".
The minister said that "there is very much of a link" between terrorism and religion.
"The reality is not all Muslims are terrorists... but all terrorists today are Muslims, and they claim to be better Muslims than you," Montebourg further stated.
'Tighter, more streamlined' travel ban coming up
Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, elaborating on President Trump's travel ban said that the screening process of travelers complies with all "personal privacy rules".
Kelly said that there is a "sophisticated vetting process" which looks at data such as the travel dates, itinerary information of the tickets, baggage and method of payment.
"It does not include race, religion, health information or political affiliation," Kelly added, saying that next week, President Trump will be "releasing a tighter, more streamlined version of the first Executive Order" to avoid problems for people traveling overseas that occurred last month.
When asked about people traveling to the US with valid visas or a green card, Kelly said, "If they are in motion from a distant land to the United States, when they arrive, they would be allowed in."
He said that a system will be in place to make sure that "people on the other end do not get on an airplane, but if they're on an airplane and inbound, they'll be allowed in the country."