The Pakistani Catholic leader was surprised and shocked by the attacks in Brussels. Describing the Belgian capital as a "militarised city”, he noted that the security deployment was "unable to prevent this attack”. The Islamic State group has spread "terror around the world." What Europe needs are political leaders and diplomats prepared to deal with the threat. The immigration issue must be settled.
Brussels (AsiaNews) – Paul Bhatti, former Federal Minister for National Harmony and leader of the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), is at the forefront of the fight against extremism and fundamentalist barbarism in Pakistan.
“If Europe does not take effective measures against terrorism, it is in danger of becoming a new Pakistan"; otherwise, things “will be even more serious" and violence "bloodier,” he told AsiaNews.
People in the Asian country "live with it, and somehow have got used to attacks”. By contrast, the West and its people "are not prepared for this."
The Catholic leader, brother of the late Minister Shahbaz Bhatti slain by Islamic fundamentalists on 2 March 2011, said he was "shocked" by Tuesday’s attack in Brussels, the continent’s and the European Union’s heart.
"With all their military assets and intelligence, I cannot understand how they could not stop them," he said.
Europe is going through a severe "economic and identity crisis". If you add "the danger terrorism, panic will follow, and people will live in terror. Urgent responses from the highest levels are needed."
Paul Bhatti travels frequently to Brussels to meet political leaders and diplomats, acting on behalf of Pakistan’s Christians and other minorities as well as for an all-out struggle against extremism and fanaticism of all kinds and colours.
"I heard the news of the attack from a friend who phoned me to know where I was and if I was okay,” the APMA leader said. “He knew that I had recently been in the Belgian capital. Here I saw an increasingly militarised city with a huge security deployment in the streets.”
“Still, I am sad and I can’t believe that they were unable to prevent the attack even though they were on maximum alert. In the past, in London and Madrid, there was not such vigilance. This time, people were expecting an attack. I'm disappointed for the intelligence failure."
Salah Abdeslam, Bhatti noted, the French terrorist with Belgian nationality responsible for the 13 November Paris attacks, has been arrested. "Part of me was happy for his arrest; however, it was sad to see the whole state apparatus, from the Belgian prime minister to his French counterpart, glued to the TV to watch his capture as it was a big show."
For Bhatti, the Islamic State (IS) group is a real threat. It "has set up an effective funding system (with Saudi-Qatari money, and Turkish logistical support), and has succeeded in "spreading terror around the world."
Moreover, IS, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and al Qaeda "are different forms of the same ideology"; a fundamentalist trend that was first exploited by Bin Laden’s terror network that developed during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and was able to exploit a "growing anti-American and anti-Western sentiment " in Pakistan, "spreading it even more".
Airstrikes, drone attacks, civilian casualties, children, women and the elderly killed have generated a desire for revenge, which the Islamic extremist movement has been able to exploit and nurture.
"Pakistan,” Bhatti said, “is the country that has paid the highest price in terms of violence, not only among civilians but also among political leaders and government officials, like Shabhaz (Bhatti), Punjab Governor Salman Taseer, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. Think of the massacre at the military school in Peshawar in which 140 children were killed.
In Pakistan, as in Europe, "it is heart-wrenching to see such deaths and injuries. I thought about my brother’s fight, the struggle for social justice, against the country’s 'Talibanisation', for a state that does not tolerate the brainwashing of children, violated in their minds and spirit from an early age."
To counter this trend towards fundamentalism, even and especially in Europe, we need politicians, diplomats, and statesmen "prepared and able to relate" with those – governments, agencies, state officials – who play a double game "with jihadi groups: slamming them on the one hand, whilst courting them on the other.”
"Unfortunately here in the West, there are no politicians or diplomats who know this type of culture in depth."
Lastly, the Catholic leader warns against provoking attacks against Islam or immigrants. In fact, "I do not believe in closed borders,” he said; “however, asylum seekers should be thoroughly vetted.
“We should not be fooled by the moral blackmail of the dead child on the beach, the victims among the children, who represent a certain tragedy. Many times terrorists exploit these events to cross boundaries and borders."
It is not true that Muslim refugees are bad and Christian refugees are good, to be welcomed. "We must be careful to deal with the issue by dealing with its political, economic, and social aspects.” At the same time, “We must opposed those who favour illegal immigration and human trafficking, on which they built business empires.”