On April 17th, the Pakistan Student Association (PSA), in conjunction with the International Relations Society (IRS), hosted a talk highlighting “Pakistan’s Contributions in the War against Terror”. The event, held at MCC T5 to almost full capacity, involved guest speakers Brigadier Muhammad Asghar (the current Defence Advisor for the High Commission for Pakistan) and Her Excellency Naela Chohan (Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Australia).

Brigadier Asghar gave a compelling presentation on the impact that terrorism has had on Pakistan. Asghar contended that the global perspective on the issue (as propagated by mainstream media) is that Western countries have faced the worst of terrorism. The reality, according to Asghar, is that developing countries with geographical borders to terrorist strongholds or safe harbours (such as Pakistan) are most affected.

“Every day we are bombarded with news about the war in terrorism being fought in Pakistan. However, in order to get a more accurate idea, it is very important that we look at both sides of the picture. Therefore, the purpose of this event was to provide people with an intellectual forum to enhance their knowledge about issues important not just to Pakistan but to the entire global community,” said PSA Media Officer Kumail Zaidi.

There have been approximately 400 reported terrorist attacks in Pakistan since 2001 – the most despicable of these being the 2014 Peshawar School Massacre which claimed the lives of 132 school children. Over half a million Pakistanis have been forced to relocate and billions of dollars of infrastructural damage has been caused as a result of terrorist activity. Asghar claimed that the human cost to Pakistan as a result of terrorism is one of the highest in the world.

In an interview with the Brigadier, he acknowledged that Pakistan has the most at stake from the “War on Terror”. Asghar agreed that the stability of Pakistan and its economic prosperity is inextricably bound to Afghanistan’s future, a neighbouring country whose instability and Taliban presence have allowed ease of access into Pakistan. The geographical proximity between the two nations makes them both vulnerable to each other’s influences.

However, with new presidential and parliamentary leadership in Afghanistan underway, Brigadier Asghar believes that incumbent Afghan president Ashraf Ghani is more open to the idea of cooperating with Pakistan on terrorism issues. However, he also stated that the international community needed to maintain funding for Afghan Forces and that a total withdrawal from Afghanistan would have serious implications for the stability of the region, which has been a point of contention for some time.

“In this day and age it’s easy for people’s views to be shaped completely by the media. It’s therefore extremely important to hear from those like Brigadier Ashgar who have firsthand experience of a difficult international issue,” said IRS President Simon Papagiorcopulo.

“We’d like to thank Brigadier Asghar and High Commissioner Naela Chohan for taking the time to talk to students about this important issue facing their country.