ISLAMABAD - Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Tuesday said that Pakistan should no longer to be treated as a victim of terrorism rather a country that had established its credentials as a victor against the menace.

He further said Pakistan had overcome a long and dark decade of terrorist victimisation and instead of letting detractors define its identity, the country had turned the picture around from “victim to victor of terrorism”.

Addressing the opening ceremony of Pakistan’s first ever Islamabad International Counter-Terrorism Forum (IICTF)-2018, the minister said that Pakistan against all odds played its due role in the war against terrorism though Western countries especially Europe and the US failed to fulfil their duties.

He said that the world changed after 9/11.

“It was not Pakistan who invited warriors including Osama bin Laden [from] across the world to Afghanistan,” Iqbal said.

He said that after the Afghan-Soviet war, all Western countries quit the region and Pakistan was left alone.

“Pakistan is still suffering from the repercussions of the Afghan [Soviet] war,” the minister further said.

Addressing the forum organised by the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta), he said that Pakistan was being pressurised to house Afghan refugees for a longer period.

“US wants process of repatriation of Afghan refugees progress slowly,” he said.

We are being asked not to send back the Afghan refugees but the West is not ready to host even a dozen refugees from Syria, the minister said.

While referring to the US, he said that instead of pointing fingers towards Pakistan, it should work with Pakistan to attain peace in the region.

The minister said that the international community should resolve the international disputes to end the menace of terrorism and extremism.

“Where ever in the world, [there] are international dispute[s], there always remain opportunities of extremism and terrorism [to grow],” he said.

The minister asked for the resolution of the issue of Indian occupied Kashmir to achieve peace in the region.

“The international community have to understand that what Pakistan is facing today is largely due to the failure of the international community to discharge their obligations in the region. So therefore in order to fix the situation [the int’l community needs to discharge their obligations],” he said.

The minister said that they needed to work together instead of blaming each other.

Iqbal said that the problems of South Sudan and East Timor were visible to the international community but it had turned a blind eye towards the atrocities committed in the Indian occupied Kashmir.

The minister said that policies of the government had enabled them to tackle militancy and extremism in the country.

"We are determined to eliminate extremism from the society in all its manifestations through adoption of appropriate counter violent extremism strategies and narratives," he said.

The minister said that the incidents of terrorism in Pakistan had fallen sharply since 2013 when the present government came to power.

“Our resolve to fight forces of extremism and terrorism is unmatched and will continue unabated," the minister said.

He said that Pakistan was victorious in the war on terrorism but its virus used to take new shape from time to time.

The minister said that Pakistan was held hostage by terrorists until a few years ago but now terrorists were surrounded from all sides.

He said that the government had managed to reshape the course of national economy as per promise made in 2013, which was evident from the fact that the international rating agencies were now acknowledging Pakistan as one of the top few emerging economies of the world, who were earlier describing it as a sinking economy.

The minister said the menace of extremism had almost been eliminated; the economy had witnessed rapid growth, while the energy crisis had also been overcome.

The minister strongly condemned the brutalities in the occupied Jammu and Kashmir by the Indian forces, and said the voice of Kashmiri people could not be suppressed through guns, bullets and use of force. 

The Indian forces must stop bloodshed of the innocent people, he said.

Iqbal said the world should focus on Kashmir issue and play their role to resolve the long standing issue.

Director-General Military Operations Major General Sahir Shamshad Mirza, while addressing the forum, said that Pakistan was the country that deployed the largest number of army personnel in the world as compared to any other country to end the menace of terrorism.

He said that Pakistan had a 2,611 km long porous and difficult border along with Afghanistan, and it had established 975 check-posts along this border, while Afghanistan had set up 218 check-posts on its side.

The DG Military Operations informed the participants that the war against terrorism had become difficult because of the Afghan refugees present in Pakistan.

He said that operation against terrorists was done in four phases and an area measuring 46,378 km in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) was cleared of.

He further said that Pakistan continued to face spill over of number of terrorist groups including Daesh present in Afghanistan.

He said that Pakistan had to suffer a loss of 123 billion dollar in this war and scarified 76,000 lives including of 5,706 army personnel.

Azad Jammu and Kashmir President Sardar Masood Khan also addressed the forum.

In his welcome address, Nacta's National Coordinator, Ihsan Ghani said that the basic objective of the forum was to highlight Pakistan's endeavours and achievements in the war against terror.

He said Pakistan had suffered huge human and financial losses in its war against terrorism, yet its journey from “victim to victor of terrorism” had no parallel in the contemporary world.

Ghani said the objective of the forum was to bring together leading international and Pakistani experts, scholars, practitioners, think tanks and opinion makers in the area of counter-terrorism to deliberate on the current situation and future challenges.

He urged the foreign delegates to have an impartial assessment of Pakistan’s fight against terrorism during their stay in Pakistan.

“There is no denying the fact that countering extremism and counter terrorism is a shared international responsibility,” he said.