Former Pakistani ambassador Ahmad Kamal and Mohammad Ayoob, Afghanistan’s minster counselor to the United Nations, discussed global terrorism with students at five institutions, including Lehigh, through a videoconference.
The former Pakistani ambassador Ahmad Kamal and Mohammad Ayoob, Afghanistan’s minster counselor to the United Nations, discussed global terrorism with students at Lehigh University and four other institutions through a live videoconference.
At 10:00 a.m. on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, approximately 50 Lehigh University and local high school students gathered in Fairchild-Martindale Library’s Media Center. They participated in conversation held between ambassadors in the United Nations in New York City and students at Montclair High School and Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey, Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania and Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.
The videoconference, titled “The Crisis of Terrorism,” was the latest in a series of events hosted by the Global Union
and sponsored by the Lehigh University-United Nations Partnership
. The “Looking in the Mirror: A Global Perspective on the U.S.” series seeks to provide an international perspective on national discussions. As part of the series, Kamal will deliver a lecture at Lehigh University in March.
On Tuesday, Kamal and Ayoob gave opening remarks before answering two questions from each institution.
Kamal said that terrorism is difficult to define, because one person’s terrorist is another’s founding father, depending on who wins the war, but terrorist acts are more easily described.
“The simplest definition is killing of innocent civilians,” he said, whether that killing is done by non-state actors or by states. He lumped suicide bombings together with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki as examples of terrorist acts.
Both ambassadors condemned acts of terrorism, but they disagreed on how to confront terrorists within their country’s borders. Kamal believes that many members of the Taliban living in Pakistan are citizens of Pakistan.
“I don’t agree with them (the Taliban), but we need to have an open dialogue with them,” he said. Al-Qaeda, however, are foreigners and should be removed and their link with the Taliban severed.
“As for the question of sanctions, they go nowhere. They never work,” he said.
Kamal said that the U.S. missile strikes against suspected Al-Qaeda and the Taliban hideouts in the land around the Pakistan-Afghan border have weakened the Pakistani government in the eyes of its people. They are outraged about the attacks and at their government’s relative inaction.
His colleague from across the table and across the border advocated a different course of action. Ayoob did not consider the Taliban as members of Afghanistan. The Taliban threaten the safety of Afghan people, killing or injuring those who do not conform to their ideology. He cited incidents where girls were prevented from attending school by being sprayed with acid.
“If they are willing to accept our constitution and our ideals, they are welcome to join us in dialogue, but at the point they would not be Taliban. They are normal Afghan people,” Ayoob said. He supported sanctions from the international community.
Throughout the morning, Ayoob touted his country’s achievements. They have risen from a land without basic rights for women, with little economic means, poor education and a Taliban-controlled government, to one that at least attempts to provide equal rights and education for both genders, he said.
However, the country needs military and financial support from the international community and the United States, in particular, he said. Monetary aid would help stem the drug trade that now supports most of the Taliban’s activities and would assist in curtailing other problems, such as poor education and government corruption.
Lehigh University was the first participating institution to pose questions to the ambassadors. Kyle Clauss, a 10th grade student from Nazareth Area High School, wanted to know what the Afghanistan government was doing to confront terrorism. In response, Ayoob said that Afghanistan has a national army and police force, but still requires assistance.
After the videoconference, Clauss said, “It was an excellent opportunity to get a wide-world understanding.”
He and some of his classmates had been on campus for other events, such as the Model U.N. and a videoconference with U.S. soldiers held on the anniversary of 9/11. Lehigh Valley Academy also sent students. The remaining seats were available to any Lehigh University faculty, staff or student interested.