Firdous Ashiq Awan, Pakistan's federal minister for information and broadcasting, said on Thursday in Ankara that “the drone attacks are not helping in the war on terror, but rather promote the terror and exacerbate the situation in Pakistan.” Awan was on an official five-day visit to Turkey starting on Monday. She emphasized that Pakistan has been careful to segregate local communities from the Taliban's terrorist network in order to isolate terrorist elements. “But drone attacks help them come together,” she said, stressing that the authorities must be very diligent in protecting communities.
Awan also lamented the fact that the sacrifices Pakistan made in the war on terrorism have not been recognized or appreciated. “Pakistan has paid a heavy price in counter-terrorism, with 36,000 Pakistanis losing their lives due to terror,” she noted. Calling on the international community to partner with Pakistan in this struggle, the Pakistani minister underlined that terror is not a national problem and cannot solved by one country alone. “Terror is not a local issue, but rather an international one, that needs to be deal with by a coalition of international actors,” she stated.
Ties between Pakistan and the US have deteriorated since US special forces killed Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of 9/11 attacks, in Pakistan in May. The outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said last month that a militant group which had attacked US targets in Afghanistan was a “veritable arm” of the Pakistani government's intelligence agency, a charge that was quickly dismissed by Islamabad. Yet that did not stop other senior US officials, including President Barack Obama from blaming Pakistan for not going after terrorists.
In response to mounting criticism from the US and others, Awan blasted world powers on Thursday for not doing enough to tackle the terrorism problem. “Instead of acknowledging their own shortcomings, they blame us. They want to use Pakistan as a scapegoat,” she argued in Ankara. Noting that terrorism is not a recent phenomenon, Awan remarked that Pakistan is facing the repercussions of problems abandoned in the region by others. Countering criticism leveled against Pakistan for not doing enough to confront the terrorism threat, Awan said, “Everyone has to play their own role in the fight with terror. It is not just the responsibility of Pakistan.” “We are only getting lip service, rather than support, from the international community,” she added.
Awan singled out Turkey, however, as strong partner in lending support to Pakistan's fight with terrorism, saying the cooperation between the two countries in the defense industry is excellent. “Turkey will support us the way we want them to and we are happy with that,” she told reporters at the Hilton hotel in Ankara. She expressed her wish to use Turkey as a gateway to project a better image of Pakistan in the international community. “The Turkish media could help Pakistan improve its image in Europe and other parts of the world,” she noted. “Pakistani society is very tolerant and enlightened, but unfortunately a true image of the country is not depicted in the media,” Awan lamented.
Awan met with Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç, whose portfolio includes media in Turkey. She said they discussed cooperation and exchange programs among media members in detail, with a results-oriented approach. “We have decided to form a committee composed of professionals and media members to meet and discuss what practical steeps we could take,” she said, adding that “with the media exchange programs, we can also enhance the capacity of our media professionals.”
The information minister said an agreement was signed on Wednesday between the Associated Press of Pakistan and semi-official Anadolu News Agency of Turkey to enhance media cooperation between news agencies in the two countries. A similar agreement was discussed between Pakistan Television (PTV) and Turkish Radio and Television (TRT), with a view to strengthening relations in the media industry.
Praising 18 Turkish schools in 13 cities in Pakistan, which are operated jointly by Turkish and Pakistani partners, Awan said there could be a pilot project launched in these schools to address the language barrier, which prevents a real exchange from both sides. “This could be applied to other schools later on,” she announced. “We are of the view that the Turkish language should be promoted in our universities. That could happen in the form of student exchanges, internship and scholarship programs,” Awan added. She said education ministers from Turkey and Pakistan can work out the details of these programs.
With regard to the devastating floods experienced in the southern parts of Pakistan, Awan made a plea to the media to mobilize help from Turkey. “We were trying to recover from previous floods, when we experienced heavy floods again after a period of only one year. We are trying to provide shelter, food, medical supplies and other aid materials,” she said, emphasizing that eight million people have been forced to live in the streets and in tents. “Turkey is one of our friends, from whom we expect support and assistance,” Awan said. In her meeting with Ahmet Lutfi Akar of the Turkish Red Crescent Society (Kızılay), Awan asked for a deeper collaboration between the Turkish and Pakistani Red Crescent Societies.