By Dr Raja Muhammad Khan

Historically, Pakistan and France are enjoying a very good relationship. These relationships encompasses all sphere; political, economic and military. Whereas, France has been a great help for Pakistan’s defence and economy, Pakistan too has reciprocated in the positive way. Just a few days back, seven people were killed in France by Mohamed Merah, a naturalized Algerian origin French citizen. Pakistan condemned the incident and expressed its grief over the losses of innocent lives. Sequel to the killings, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said that, “a radical Frenchman who claimed to have gunned down Jewish children and paratroopers apparently was not part of a terrorist network.”

French President declared the violent incidents as an isolated attack by an unhinged monster.” President Sarkozy also rejected the presence of any network of terrorists in France and said that, Merah was a “lone wolf. There is no (terror) cell.” Certainly, the incident was a great concern for French President and people of that country. President Sarkozy while expressing his concern over the incident, declared it as the, “the processes of self-radicalization of lone individuals.”Unfortunately, like the incident of 9/11, neither blamed Algeria, the ancestral country of Merah, nor France; the country of his birth and citizenship.  Rather, sequel to these killings, French and international media, started blaming Pakistan for the killings of French by a French citizen.

Indeed, for the people of Pakistan, it was another 9/11 like situation, where the perpetrators were all Arabs, but Pakistan was accused and penalized, the poor country is suffering the aftermaths of that event even today. Should such a malicious propaganda campaign has any basis or just aim to target Pakistan for keeping it under pressure for American and western gains? While the Western world has turned all its guns towards Pakistan, this civilized society has forgotten the social aspects and discriminations that might have compelled Merah to turn his gun on the same society, which raised him. Indeed, “Religion was not Mohammed Merah's problem; nor is politics. A French citizen frustrated at being unable to find his place, to give his life dignity and meaning in his own country, he would find two political causes through which he could articulate his distress: Afghanistan and Palestine. He attacks symbols like the army, and kills Jews, Christians and Muslims without distinction. His political thought is that of a young man adrift, imbued neither with the values of Islam, or driven by racism and anti-Semitism.”

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Regretfully, those point fingers towards Pakistan or elsewhere, failed to see the loopholes in their own system; either in the form discrimination of a few or else failure to provide justice. Then after all, why did the French authorities failed to keep an eye over his activities, despite his shady/dubious track record. Merah, a young man of twenty-three years of age has criminal record in France. According to his lawyer, Christian Etelin, Merah, remained in jail in France from December 2007 to September 2009 for mugging offence. The lawyer feel that, Merah experience in jail could have “provoked hate for the justice system and laid the groundwork from which he threw himself into this religious fanaticism.” Mohammad Merah twice visited Afghanistan and got arrested there by Afghan forces, who handed him over to US, which arranged his move back to France. Some officials even say that he was jailed in Kandahar in Afghanistan for quite sometime.

With all these evidences, Western media and those who tried to malign Pakistan should have demonstrated at least the minimum level of maturity and responsibility before accusing Pakistan. Such reporting by the reputed media further cast doubts regarding behind the scene motives, as is evident from the fact that international media even did not bother to check the credibility of the claim and the self acclaimed claimant like Mr. Ahmed Marwat before publishing the report. While Pakistan is concerned over the killings, it also shares all information regarding Merah’s visit to Pakistan.  The security forces of Pakistan are engaged in a military campaign against the foreign nationals and local militants alike in FATA and elsewhere, therefore, there is no way that, Merah or other eighty French nationals could have undergone training in the FATA, as some media reports claim. Furthermore, Pakistani and French authorities are enjoying an excellent level of cooperation in all fields viz military, political and economic. Intelligence agencies of both countries are sharing information about any regional and global incident/ issue. Therefore, the ill-vision media campaign has no practical say from the perspective of the realistic paradigm. 

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According to recent revelations of the French police officials, the offender has no particular demand, except he acted to “avenge Palestinian children.” It is to be noted that, before he was killed, hundreds of the French anti-terror police officials barricaded the building, where Merah took refuge. Before a French police sniper killed him, he accepted the responsibility of “killing three young children and their teacher at a Jewish school in Toulouse and three French paratroopers, who like he, were of North African descent.” As the subsequent investigation revealed, Merah’s was critical to the death of Palestinian children and also the role of France as part of NATO in Afghanistan, besides discriminatory approach of the French Government towards people like Merah. For the international community, what is more significant is to bridge the ever enlarging gap between West and Muslim world. The menace of terrorism is a global issue, thus need global approach to combat it. Whereas, US in particular and West in general is responsible to promote this menace in Southwest Asia (during Soviet invasion of Afghanistan), they should take the share and responsibility to bring an end to this global issue together with the regional countries. Maligning Pakistan for any terrorist act anywhere in the world is discriminatory.

Pakistan is the worst sufferer of the terrorism and militancy. In fact, no country in the world matches the contributions of Pakistan in the global campaign against the terrorism.  Rather appreciating and helping Pakistani efforts to bring an end to this menace, international media and at times officials and writers have proved discriminatory. International and national media should reflect the sacrifices of Pakistani nation, especially of its security forces for combating the terrorism ever since the start of this campaign in 2001. Such recognition would have further encouraged this great nation to continue its drive against the militancy and terrorism, which badly affected the social filament of Pakistani society. Therefore, it is about time that, international community and media should correct its perception about peaceful and peace loving Pakistani society. Since, as a nation, Pakistanis are against any militancy and terrorism, therefore, it is desired that, global media should stop dissemination of misperceptions through misreporting.

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Pakistan desired continuation of good bilateral relationship with France, and EU. For a better and long-term Pakistan-French relationship, it is mandatory that, officials on either side should resolve their issues diplomatically, rather through media reports or dictates. 

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