ISLAMABAD: Pakistan says although it is bearing the brunt of US policies in the region, it will not get sidelined with threats, suspension of military aid and new guidelines from Washington on security cooperation. The government says while remaining focused, it is determined to continue to do all that is necessary to secure the lives of its citizens and ensure broader stability in the region.
This has not come easy to Pakistan where the war against terrorism alone over 15 years saw the country spending over $123 billion from its own resources. Islamabad has conveyed clearly to the Trump administration that it did not seek US assistance, and in spite of the ‘freeze’ on security assistance, Pakistan in its national interest remains committed to counter terrorism and its law enforcement agencies throughout the country will continue to work irrespective of any suspension of foreign assistance.
“The provocative statements by the US leadership notwithstanding, Pakistan’s response has been measured, as we believe that continued Pak-US cooperation is important for the stability of the region, especially Afghanistan,” say officials.
Pakistan says its support to the US has been critical in dealing with the challenges of terrorism in the region. Both sides understand the importance of lines of communication. However, away from the glare of the media, intense dialogue continues between Islamabad and Washington, with the Foreign Office saying. “We are engaged with the US administration on the issue of security cooperation and await further details….. but it is very clear that working towards enduring peace requires mutual respect and trust along with perseverance”.
The past has seen that on the basis of intelligence sharing with the US, Pakistan has been able to secure the region and decimate al-Qaeda. This has been acknowledged by the US leadership. Even today, Pakistan has conveyed to the Trump administration that actionable intelligence sharing can help in advancing the shared goal of defeating terrorism from the region.
During the weekly media briefing at the Foreign Office, the spokesman was besieged with queries on the latest situation regarding bilateral relations with the US, and he repeated that cooperation between Pakistan and United States was imperative for regional peace and specifically for stability in Afghanistan.
“We believe that our efforts have helped decimate al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups who took advantage of ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan and posed a common threat to peace and stability. Working towards enduring peace requires mutual respect and trust along with perseverance. Emergence of new and more deadly groups such as Daesh in Afghanistan, require enhancement and strengthening of international cooperation. Arbitrary deadlines, unilateral pronouncements and shifting goalposts are counterproductive in addressing common threats,” he bluntly told the Trump administration.
To a query, the spokesman said the government had noted the recent meetings between heads of CIA, RAW and NDS. “We are aware of all these things that are happening and appropriate steps are being taken in this regard,” he said without elaborating.
Denying the presence of Afghan Taliban leadership in Pakistan, he reiterated that the government would take action on the basis of “any actionable intelligence or information provided”. However, this did not mean that Pakistan would think about “hot pursuit”.
“Instead we have repeatedly said that we will take action against any terrorist element in Pakistan, if actionable intelligence is shared with us. Similarly, Pakistan expects that the Afghan side will also do the same so that the menace of terrorism, which is a global phenomenon, can be rooted out,” he clarified.
In this regard, the Pakistan Army has managed to trace back to Afghanistan the terror attack in Quetta this week. “The traces of the last terrorist attack in Quetta led to Afghanistan also and we shared those details with the Afghan side. We have repeatedly conveyed our concerns to the Afghan government about the presence of safe havens and anti-Pakistan hostile elements in Afghanistan that are responsible for the heinous terrorist attacks in Pakistan with loss of precious lives,” said the spokesman.
Denying the presence of Daesh inside the country, he pointed out that as per credible intelligence and investigation, most of the terrorist incidents in Pakistan, which were claimed by Daesh, had been planned and executed from Afghanistan.
“Due to the presence of wide ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan, especially in Nuristan, Kunar and Nangarhar provinces, there is an increase in such cross-border terrorist attacks in Pakistan. Daesh, finding a foothold in Afghanistan, is a matter of concern as it is using the Afghan territory to foment terrorism in neighbouring countries including Pakistan,” he said.
It is not only Kabul but other world capitals, including Washington, that appear to have wiped clean their memories of the continuous burden of Afghan refugees still in Pakistan. “Pakistan aspires for a dignified, sustainable and complete repatriation of Afghan refugees. Afghanistan and the international community need to invest in the creation of ‘pull factors’ for incentivising the return of refugees. The Afghan government hasn’t approached us on the issue of extension of stay of Afghan refugees in Pakistan,” the spokesman responded to a query.
Turing to India, Pakistan says that its position is very clear. “We are ready to talk on all outstanding issues with India. Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains the cardinal issue among these, which also includes the issue of Sir Creek and Siachen as well as people to people contacts, trade, prisoners, etc. Pakistan has consistently maintained that the only way forward is through a comprehensive, result-oriented, uninterrupted, uninterruptible dialogue to resolve all outstanding issues,” said the spokesman.
He added that Pakistan will also not shy away from talking about terrorism, which is a global phenomenon, and calls for global and concerted action. “However, since India is not ready to talk to Pakistan, nothing much can be done,” he said.
While all states have a legitimate right to pursue peaceful uses of space technologies, the spokesman, while pointing to the impending launch of 31 satellites by India which will have dual use, remarked, “However, all space technologies, including earth observation satellites, have inherently dual use and can be employed for both civilian and military purposes. Given the dual use nature of such technologies, it is essential that such pursuits are not directed towards a build-up of destabilising military capabilities, which can negatively impact the regional strategic stability.”