UNITED NATIONS - Pakistan has called for the UN Counter-Terrorism Strategy to focus attention on addressing festering disputes, foreign occupation and denial of the right of self-determination as part of measures to combat terrorism.

“The proposed Convention must be consistent with the International Humanitarian Law and it should clearly differentiate between acts of terrorism and the legitimate struggles for self-determination of people living under foreign occupation,” Ambassador Masood Khan, Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, told the UN General Assembly’s Legal Committee, which is working on the Convention.

Speaking in a debate on “Measures to Eliminate International Terrorism”, he also demanded cessation of US drone strikes in Pakistani border areas, stating that Islamabad was already taking decisive action against terrorists there.

The drone strikes, he said, violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and the established principles of international human rights and humanitarian law, and were also counter-productive for the efforts aimed at countering violent extremism.

Elaborating his remarks on the Counterterrorism Strategy, Ambassador Masood Khan asked whether the United Nations should revamp it, given that “the monster of terrorism seemed to be getting bigger” and was being used as an instrument for asymmetric warfare. 

“We believe that the UN’s Counter-Terrorism Strategy should address the defamation of certain religions and demonisation of their communities that act as incitement to hatred, the Pakistani envoy said. “A dialogue among civilisations is an absolute imperative to prevent divergences in attitudes and thoughts from becoming fodder for the terrorist ideologies.” In addition, he said, that the political and economic injustices create polarisation and fuel animosities.

“We must also ensure that the measures we take to counter terrorism remain within the framework of international law. It is important to maintain a distinction between the just and unjust causes; because injustice breeds hostility and violent reactions.”

Noting that Pakistan was engaged in an “unrelenting war” against terrorism on its own soil that had cost 50,000 lives and financial losses exceeding $100 billion, he spoke of his country’s multi-pronged strategy, through military actions, but also through education, assuring that counter-terrorism measures conformed to international obligations and through legislation.

Masood Khan told the committee that Pakistan launched its military operation, Zarb-e-Azb, in North Wazisistan after the failure of a dialogue process. The operation, he said, was continuing successfully.

“Several hundred terrorists, including foreign operatives, have been taken out; IED and ammunitions factories destroyed; arms and communication equipment disabled. Vast swathes of land have been cleared. Terrorists hideouts and networks have been dismantled and their command and control system has been degraded”, he added.

“We are proud of the sacrifices of our valiant soldiers who have laid down their lives and sustained injuries to cleanse our soil of terrorism”, he said. Masood Khan recounted the measures taken by the govt to counter violent extremism.

“We have focused on review of education curricula, propagation of counter-narratives to extremist ideology through the media and seminars, economic development of areas at risk, employment generation and skill development for youth and loans for young entrepreneurs”.

In addition, he said that Pakistan was building capacity of its prosecutors, police officials and judges dealing with cases of terrorism to ensure that the counter-terrorist measures were rooted in the rule of law and conform to international obligations.

On the legislative side, he said,that Pakistan has undertaken sweeping reforms to amend Anti-Terrorism Act to make it more effective.