The Institute of Strategic Studies held an in-house meeting with Mr. Afzal Khan, a prominent member of the European Parliament and a representative of the United Kingdom’s Labour Party.
After welcome remarks by the Director General Ambassador Masood Khan, Mr. Afzal Khan briefly spoke of his journey to the European Parliament. He highlighted important topics on the global front such as the refugee crisis and terrorism. At the latter point he stated that while Pakistan had always been in the forefront in the battle against terrorism, it had never been given the acknowledgement it deserves. Only recently has Pakistan’s counter-terrorism efforts and success been appreciated. He stressed that just as the world had gathered together in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, people should similarly show their support for Pakistan.
On a question related to the Islamic State (ISIS) and what was compelling people to join the organisation, Mr. Khan pointed out that from a profiling point of view, a mixed batch of people from both ends of the income spectrum were giving their allegiance. Lack of job opportunities for young people and frustration as a result is one reason while internet radicalisation is another. He stated how the whole of Europe is fearful of ISIS. By not having a handle on such a complex situation has made ISIS a very unpredictable threat.
He underlined the fact that Muslims are a very diverse community and generalising all Muslims because of a few extremists is uncalled for. Here he noted the western media’s role in propagating anti-Islam and anti-muslim sentiments. Mr. Khan focused on the fact that more than half of the Muslim population in Europe comprised of the Pakistani diaspora and highlighted the positive role they were playing in portraying a positive image of their country abroad. He also emphasised on the fact that hypocrisy needs to be eliminated. The same rules should apply to all countries. Here, he cited the European Parliament as an example by appreciating the fact that even though many differences existed, the same rules applied to all parties and representatives.
Mr Khan went on to state that proper structures were not in place. Whether it be religion or politics, unqualified people reach the highest echelons through improper channels and then they do not have the ability to deal with challenges and issues. He concluded by saying that democracy and stability are two sides of the same coin and hence cannot be separated under circumstances.
The meeting was concluded by the Chairman ISSI, Ambassador Khalid Mahmood who thanked the speaker for his insightful comments. He also acknowledged that Islamophobia was a very serious concern and expressed that more strenuous measures needed to be taken in this regard.