Interview with Pakistani ambassador to Serbia Syed Adil Gilani.
– We may start with the recent important anniversary. Pakistan and Serbia mark 70 years of diplomatic relations. Delegation from Pakistan visited Serbia in July and there was an open door event in the centre of Belgrade on that occasion. Do you find that even successful? What are the outcomes, and are there business opportunities or cultural, educational cooperation? What are your expectations for the next period?
– The Made in Pakistan Exhibition held in July was a great success. A numbers of meeting held between Pakistani exporters and Serbian Importers as well as with Serbian Chamber of Commerce and other related government offices. A MOU on trading of sports goods and Equipment and cooperation in sports was signed between Pakistani Sports company Euro Sports Pvt Ltd and Serbian sports promotion agency „Power House 381 Sports Agency” was 27 July 2018.
Further deal with a super store was finalized for supplying Pakistani Mango, dates and Kinoo (special orange). It is expected that as a positive outcome of the exhibition, there will be substantial increase in trade volume between the two countries.
– There have been elections in Pakistan recently and the new phase in political life is on. Where is Balkans and, namely, Serbia, in the foreign policy plan of the new government? Having in mind fast changing situations and circumstances in international set up, in many levels, are there some plans to reconsider some of the questions between the countries? Having in mind that relations between Pakistan and Serbia are getting better, would you expect some changes in the Pakistani foreign policy approach toward Serbia?
– Mr. Imran Khan Chairman PTI, is expected to be chosen as Prime Minister by the new Parliament on 17th August 2018. Imran Khan has declared open door and friendly foreign policy on equitable basis. The new government is for good governance, honesty and zero tolerance for corruption. The relations with Serbia will defiantly improve further, and many new agreement are expected to be negotiated between to two countries. Yes, new government will have proactive policy towards Serbia. Pakistan is World Champion of Cricket in T20 format, and had sponsored 15 days coaching of Serbian Cricket team in PCB Cricket Academy Lahore May 2018. The new PM, Imran Khan is a living Cricket Legend, who won Circlet World Cup in one day format, for Pakistan in 1992. Under the regime of new government cooperation between the two countries in fields of sports and tourism will also increase many folds.
-Visa liberalisation between Pakistan and Serbia is also the announcement of improved cooperation and trust between two countries. But, that is also a very sensitive issue, especially here, in Europe (it appeared also that EU countries are even more in danger). That issue became increasingly sensitive in every way, including security dilemma, especially after tectonic changes in The Middle East in the last couple of years. Since the US invasion of Afghanistan, the various war corridors have been intersecting with humanitarian ones and those, with criminal or terrorist routes. As the situation deteriorated both in Afghanistan and in The Middle East, we have been witnessing huge influxes of displaced people. It also continued to the period of so-called Arab Spring, instigated both in The Middle East and Northern Africa. But, situation changed from the end of 2015 and it has been changing more and more since then – in maybe, unexpected directions, or maybe non-planned directions. It means that old patterns of international relations (being in line with international law or not) are falling apart and some innovations may be welcome in bilateral diplomatic relations, as well. Do you think that Serbia and Pakistan can promote some new approach to the problem of refugees and migrants? Namely, is it possible to establish a good system in order to be possible to distinguish war refugees and economic migrants on one side and so-called “weapons of mass migrations” on the other side? Actually, it is public secret in entire Europe that some international non-governmental organizations finance the process of displacement in various parts of the world. And there is problem in EU on that issue. Do you think it possible to be creative and find some well-based and practical way to distinct those with, let’s say normal ones with good intentions, from those with some kind of “mercenary mission”?
– Visa-free regime between Serbia & Pakistan is under approval and expected to be signed this year. Theproblem of refugees and migrants is going on since ages. Yes there is difference between migrant and refugee. Migration is a natural process and is mostly treated as legal, whereas refuges are both legal and illegal. The illegal refugee problem is created due to corruption, which has resulted in eruption of illegal refugees.
Pakistan has made strict laws to curb illegal migrants from Pakistan, such as computerized National Identity card and computerized Passport. Illegal refuges do not have passports, and shall not be allowed to enter. With visa free regime, Pakistan will have over 10,000 tourist in Serbia, who will add to Serbian economy and I am sure this tourist volume from Pakistan increase in future manifold.
– And this brings us to other important, may be even more important issue. Do you think that genuine Muslim countries should play a more important role in helping Western Europe to cope with many problems which are created in a daily clashes of cultures? Like raising awareness about the difference between Islam and Muslims (both Shia and Sunni) from those who are traitors of Islam, misuse Islam with the aim to deteriorate its values and present its people in not very nice, Islamists we may call them – is there common sense for that kind of knowledge in the West? For example, to explain the difference between real mosques and extremists’ ones, to point out to specific signs which people in Europe can not recognize or simply are not familiar with symbols and significance in Islam. It would be legitimate measure – if there can be printed or media guides for majority of people anywhere to understand so-called LGBT community, why not to have some guides for majority of people (who do not know) to learn to distinguish those who want peace, because Islam is peace loving religion, from those who wait to raise chaos and misuse Islam.
– Islam is a religion of peace. Propaganda has played vital role in spreading the impression that terrorist are mostly Muslims. Who created Mujahidin in 1980s to fight was in Afghanistan, who backed up Osama Bin Laden to form Al Qaeda from Mujahieen in Afghanistan and supplied arms and ammunitions in 1980s? Even who formed ISIS? Creation of such organizations and financing them for their own ulterior motives has resulted in recent waves of terrorism by members of these organizations. World shall know that Muslims are 24 % of world’s population, but only about 10% of all terrorist attacks from 1970 have been conducted by (supposedly) Islamist-motivated groups. It increased after 9/11, but only marginally, and well below 24%. So if you meet a Muslim anywhere today, that person is less likely to be a terrorist than any person you might meet who is a non-Muslim.
As an example, in Pakistan recent elections, fundamentalist political parties lost miserably, and most of the senior religious party leader loss their own seats in parliament. The policy of liberations is also adopted recently in Saudi Arabia. The media shall be duty-bound play a positive role in this regards to eliminate the policy of religious hatred, and all countries in World shall respect the religious faith of every citizen and shall stop discrimination due to individual’s faith.
– And, back to Afghanistan, again – if we look at the situation in South Asia, it might look like that situation in Afghanistan is of utmost importance for strategic balance in South Asia. Would you expect some developments and improvements in the situation in Afghanistan and how you see the role of Pakistan in that matter? Do you think it is possible for Pakistan and Afghanistan to cooperate in the matters of purging terrorism and illegal businesses from both countries?
– Yes, peace in Afghanistan is vital for world peace. The Afghan War in 1979 supported by USA and Saudi Arabia resulted in over 4 Million Afghan refugees in Pakistan. After the war ended in February 1989, the refuges were supposed to return back, but it did not, even today we have over 1.7 million Afghan Refugees are in Pakistan.
Everyone has to realise why since last 16/17 years, even after spending over $ 800 Billion, the war in Afghanistan has not been won by US and NATO. Pakistan has done a lot in the war against terrorism.. Pakistan Army on the other hand has defeated the terrorists in Pakistan in last 3 years, which has caused loss of over 50,000 civilians and about 8000 army personal as well as app. US 100 Billion economic losses. There is urgent need to understand that wars cannot resolve issues and disputes between countries. Nations shall be left alone to rule themselves. With Imran Khan as new PM of Pakistan, the matters between Afghanistan and Pakistan are expected to be resolved. This has to be understood that Afghanistan is natural ally of Pakistan and it is a land locked country and uses Pakistani ports for its trade.
– Apart of South Asia, we may notice some important changes in the other parts of Asia. There are also increased activities of organisations like BRICS, CSO, ASEAN, EAEU, One Belt One Road – all of those signal some other kinds of partnerships and differently based cooperation compared to the usual ones. It signals some further changes which emerge out of new geopolitical reality. Do you think that those organizations can influence migrations, too – having in mind that if, let’s say Afghanistan is stabilized, but Afghani people left the country in the years of war and terror, who will work there and who will rebuild the country? Who knows better its own country than people from there. They can improve it in the best way. The point is – is it possible to work through all those existing and emerging multipolar organizations and initiatives to save, both countries, their sovereignty, people and to improve their mutual relations in every possible way, by those new offered platforms for bilateral or multilateral cooperation and coordination?
– As I have said earlier that at one time Pakistan house over 40 Million Afghan Refugees in early 1980, which still is the world record of refuges, and even today Pakistan has over 10 Million Afghan refugees. Many Afghan migrated to US and Europe. Mr. Zalmay Khalilzad who was US Ambassador in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, is an Afghan Immigrant in US. He earlier worked as an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Columbia University‘s School of International and Public Affairs.
During that time, he worked closely with Zbigniew Brzezinski, the Carter administration‘s architect of Operation Cyclone to support the mujahideen, who resisted the Soviet Union‘s invasion of Afghanistan. In my view once Afghanistan is stabilized, world will not have influx of illegal refuge from Afghanistan. Already in last 40 years, millions of Afghans have settled all over the world, and their family members have legal channels to obtain citizenships. In fact stabilized Afghanistan will result in return of Afghans from abroad, to work and assist their country.
– And, having in mind the projects and plans, what would be the next steps in the development of Pakistani-Serbian bilateral relations? There is also intensified bilateral communication between Pakistan and Russia. That makes a fruitful ground for further multilateral cooperation. Is it realistic to see things this way?
(Since Russia showed great efficiency in dealing with terrorism in Syria, it is reasonable to presume that it can be helpful both to Pakistan and to the development of Serbian-Pakistani relations in the domain of preventing terrorist networks to spread, as they were allowed by the West to do. That would make visa liberalisation system more fruitful and beneficiary for both Serbia and Pakistan and also on the level of international control of movements of potential trouble makers who are displaced from their terrorist strongholds and may impersonate refugees).
– Bilateral relations between Serbia and Pakistan will be very active with Imran Khan coming into Power in Pakistan. All the bilateral agreements executed between Yugoslavia and Pakistan, will be renegotiated and signed. Exports and Imports between Serbia and Pakistan will increase. Tourism between Serbia and Pakistan will enter into new phase. Pakistan will supports further efforts of Serbia to resolve Kosovo issue amicably. Pakistan has very effectively controlled terrorism in Pakistan, and will share its expertise and professionalism with Russia, USA, Serbia and all other countries to fight terrorism.
– And, the last question: which is your favourite part of Serbia from those you visited up to now?
– Belgrade is my favourite part of Serbia, may be due to its historical background, and being the most favourite road link between West and East.