Pakistan’s leaders may wish to change the country’s global image, but their very statements reinforce the country’s image as a country that is home to jihadi groups. In a speech delivered at the National Assembly, Prime Minister Imran Khan referred to global terror mastermind, Osama Bin Laden (OBL), as a “martyr.” When Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was asked about this, he stated that the prime minister’s remarks “had been taken out of context.” However, when he was asked if he (Mr Qureshi) regarded OBL him as a martyr, he replied “I will let it pass.”
These remarks reverberated both in social and mainstream media all over the world and was even more unfortunate that it occurred at the same time as the June meeting of the UN Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a body that examines global terror financing and money laundering. Pakistan cannot claim it is acting against terror groups and yet call OBL a martyr!
As an editorial in Dawn stated, “The foreign minister’s recent refusal to call Osama bin Laden a terrorist in an interview with an Afghan media outlet is perplexing and defies logic. There are times to be diplomatic and parry sticky questions. However, this certainly didn’t appear to be one of those instances. Mr Qureshi could have used this opportunity to clearly state that Pakistan considers the late Al Qaeda mastermind a terrorist. However, his non-committal comments sent the wrong message to a global audience.”
Further, “bin Laden was an ideological hero to many militants in Pakistan, who had no qualms about taking on the state and spilling the blood of the innocent. Few would disagree that bin Laden was the most influential religious militant of the current era, inspiring terrorist groups across the world with his ideology and tactics. Therefore, there should be no ‘ifs’ or ‘buts’ and the message our government should be sending to the world is that Osama bin Laden was very much a terrorist.”