Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander says the number of 'bogus' asylum claims has dropped by 87 per cent since the federal government introduced a new asylum system in Dec. 2012. Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press
Pakistan is lashing back at a senior Conservative cabinet minister who accused the country of sponsoring terrorism, warning he should not pursue a “personal and prejudiced agenda” on an issue of crucial importance to regional security.
In a statement to CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, the High Commission for Pakistan said Citizenship and Immigration Minister Chris Alexander’s remarks on the program Monday reflect “a lack of any objective appreciation of the ground realities in our region.”
“Pakistan is not a state sponsor of terrorism, as naively alleged by Mr. Alexander, but is itself a victim of terrorism, determined to fight this menace and extend every possible co-operation to our neighbours and allies in this regard,” press counsellor Nazia Khalid said in the statement.
“The fact is that Pakistan seeks to disrupt and dismantle all terrorist entities on its territory," she said.
"The government and people of Pakistan are committed to defeat this evil, no matter how many sacrifices they have to render. Pakistan has been extending full co-operation, including exchange of information and intelligence to the international community. Pakistan has arrested several high profile terrorists and we have lost thousands of lives in the process.”
During a special edition of Power & Politics on Canada’s 12-year mission in Afghanistan broadcast Monday, Alexander urged Canada and its allies to take a “united front” against Pakistan because it is a state sponsor of terrorism that threatens world security.
“This is state sponsorship of terrorism. It’s covert. It’s been denied. Not even Western analysts agree that it’s happening on the scale we know it to be happening,” Alexander, who is a former ambassador to Afghanistan, told host Evan Solomon.
Alexander, who authored the book The Long Way Back: Afghanistan’s Quest for Peace, called for continued support for Afghans who are fighting against the Taliban and for security and democracy as Canada and other countries wrap up prolonged military missions. But he also urged allies to confront Pakistan.
“We need to have a united front in dealing with Pakistan. The civilian government there doesn’t control military policy, strategic policy … the army and the intelligence service do,” he said.” And they have denied the obvious, postponed this reckoning for years with so many terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, that are doing so much harm around the world, still based in that country, this should be a priority for everyone.”
Khalid said the Canadian government and people recognize that Pakistan is fighting against terrorism — not supporting it.
“Mr. Alexander will be well advised not to pursue a personal and prejudiced agenda on an issue that is of vital importance for the security of our region,” she said.
Alexander went on to say the international community must address the Pakistan situation urgently because it’s “all connected” with other trouble spots — linked to Syria and Iraq because so many militants and jihadis are going there, and also linked to foreign policy on Russia.
“The civilian government will say we don’t control it, it happens behind closed doors in places run by the army, run by the ISI [Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence]. The Pakistani population doesn’t know this is happening. But it has to be said.
"You can not, they have not, trained, financed, equipped the Taliban on this scale without the institutional involvement with these groups. And they are negotiating with the Taliban — trying to lie down with the lion inside Pakistan in spite of all the loss of life inside Pakistan. This has got to change.”
'Extreme elements' in Pakistan
CBC News asked Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird's office if this represents Canada's official government position, but the query was referred back to Alexander's office.
On Tuesday, Alexander's press secretary, Alexis Pavlich, said the cabinet minister's views are informed by his years working in the region and writing his book. She said Alexander was repeating his view that there is support for extremism from "elements of the Pakistani state," in response to questions asking his "personal opinion" on Afghan-Pakistan affairs.
"It is not just that these terrorist groups continue to operate from Pakistani territory: they also enjoy official, albeit covert, sanction and support from some within Pakistan's state apparatus," Pavlich said. "Terrorist attacks underscore the need for swift and determined action by the government of Pakistan against terrorist groups that prey on innocents in Pakistan."
Canada will continue to work with "the people of Pakistan" and allies to help the country address the challenges it faces, Pavlich added.