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Pakistani Interior Minister Prof Ahsan Iqbal said Thursday that regional cooperation is needed to counter terrorism, as Pakistan seeks to build a stable environment for development.
"All countries have to work together to promote stability and peace in the region," Iqbal said during an exclusive interview with the Global Times. "If one part of the region is insecure, it has the potential to destabilize the whole region."
Pakistan has often come under fire from the Western media as a "root of terrorism," but it is also a victim rather than the one to blame.
"Our region paid a heavy price for terrorism after 9/11 with the US invasion in Afghanistan, and the whole region became instable," he said.
He noted after the Pakistani government launched major operations against those who attacked the Peshawar school and the notorious Red Mosque, Pakistan has almost broken the back of the terrorist groups.
Iqbal also called for a political solution to the situation in Afghanistan, as the US-led military solution has not worked in more than a decade.
"We have to engage all the regional countries because neighbors of Afghanistan have the biggest stake in its stability," he said. "Afghanistan isn't more stable than before 2001. We are still facing the threat from infiltration from Afghanistan to Pakistan through the western border."
Pakistan has suffered heavily due to terrorism, which has caused the deaths of some 70,000 people in Pakistan, and more than $100 billion in economic losses, Iqbal said.
Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor initiative (CPEC), thousands of Chinese workers are living in Pakistan, and Iqbal labeled them as "national heroes."
"They are working in Pakistan to help Pakistan develop, they are our national heroes," said Iqbal, who is also the Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms.
"It is our duty to provide them best security with all our means."
He noted that Pakistan has raised the numbers of special forces to about 15,000 personnel now working full time to provide security to CPEC projects, and to Chinese who are working in Pakistan.