Irshad Salim — Pakistan says it seeks to amicably resolve issues with the United States, cautioning “any [coercive] American action” would cause instability in the country, report VOAnews correspondent Ayaz Gul from Islamabad.
The report refers to remarks made by Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan days after U.S. President Donald Trump singled out Pakistan for harboring terrorist organizations, including the Taliban and Haqqani network, which destabilize Afghanistan and plot attacks on American troops there.
Trump did not outline what actions he might order to pressure Islamabad to move against the alleged terrorist sanctuaries. A range of punitive measures reportedly is being considered the report claims, such as increasing diplomatic and economic pressure, and intensifying and expanding anti-terrorism drone strikes inside Pakistan.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday in Islamabad, Defense Minister Khan again rejected that there are any terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan. He said Pakistani security forces already have taken action against all terrorist groups and are in the process of eliminating their “remnants” in the country.
The Defense Minister also cited U.S. military assessments that say less then 60 percent of Afghan territory is under the control or influence of the Kabul government.
“That is why we are all gravely concerned about the fact that 40 percent of Afghanistan has perhaps become a safe haven [for terrorists],” he said.
In a brief statement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry recently pointed to the presence of terrorist groups in “the ungoverned spaces of Afghanistan,” including the Pakistani Taliban and its associates like Jamaatul Ahrar, Islamic State and anti-China militants.
“Pakistan also remains concerned at the rise of extremist ideologies and intolerance in the region encouraging social stratification and systematic targeting of minorities,” the statement read.
Islamabad also alleges that India is partnering with the Afghan intelligence agency to support anti-state militants sheltering in Afghanistan to plan attacks against Pakistan.
The Pakistani minister added that his country is not feeling threatened by the U.S. following the harshly worded Trump speech.
“However, we are maintaining an extremely strict monitoring of our land, sea and air frontiers,” noted Khan.
He sounded upbeat, though, about “better and quality future engagements” between Islamabad and Washington.
Khan said the Pakistani foreign minister, Khawaja Muhammad Asif, plans to travel to Washington for official talks after consulting key regional partners, including China, Russia, Iran and Turkey.
“We are trying to resolve the issues amicably because any American action would cause instability in Pakistan,” the defense minister warned.
In a related note, foreign minister Khawaja Asif said in an interview with Geo News that a new foreign policy will have to be formed with regards to the regional situation. Asif further said the policy should only be meant to safeguard the interests of the nation and its dignity.
A three-day envoys conference has commenced at the Foreign Office to brainstorm and find answers to multiple challenges in th fast-changing geopolitical realities of the region and the world at large that Pakistan faces.
While these envoys conferences are a normal feature at the Foreign Office, this time around there is added urgency with President Trump’s new policy for the region on top of the agenda, putting Pakistan on the defensive.
Added to this is the recently held BRICS leaders summit which named militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan and said that this was a regional security concern.
Ambassadors from United States, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Afghanistan, Iran and India are attending the conference.Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will chair the concluding session and offer guidelines to the senior diplomats. No dramatic changes are expected but it will certainly be a test of the government how it steers itself through multiple challenges, especially in the region.
The world must do more against terrorism: Pak Army Chief
Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa called on the world to “do more” against terrorism at a tribute to the martyrs of the 1965 war on Pakistan’s 52nd Defense Day at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi on Wednesday.
“Despite all our efforts, our countless sacrifice and over decades of war, we are being told that we have not done enough against terrorism,” the army chief said, referring to recent criticism by United States (US) President Donald Trump over Pakistan’s alleged inaction against terrorist ‘safe havens’.
“If Pakistan has not done enough in this war, then no country in the world has done anything,” he asserted.
“Only Pakistan has seen this level of success with such limited resources. From Operation Sher Dil, to Rah-i-Rast, Rah-i-Nijat, Zarb-i-Azab and now Radd-ul-Fasaad, we have paid for each inch [of gains] with our blood.”
“And now, I say that the world must do more.”
“We don’t want aid, we want your respect and confidence,” the COAS said, responding to US claims that they had given “billions and billions of dollars” in aid to Pakistan. “Our actions and sacrifices should be appreciated.”
“We will encourage actions by America and Nato that will bring peace to Afghanistan specifically and the region at large. But we also wish for our security concerns should also be resolved,” he added.
“We have tried to help Afghanistan beyond our capabilities, but Afghanistan’s war cannot be fought in Pakistan. We have made well-intentioned eforts for talks and peace in Afghanistan. However, Afghanistan is a self-sufficient country that is free to make its own decisions. If even today they veer towards war, then we cannot be a part of this war,” the army chief maintained.
“We wish to have mutually respectful relations with all countries. If other countries cannot help us fight against terrorism then they should at least not hold us responsible for their own failings.”
“Pakistan is a peace-loving country, and Pakistanis have, despite 40 continuous years of discord, retained their identity and unity. Larger countries with more resources than us have broken,” the army chief said.