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Pakistan Faces Rising Criticism over Inability to Curb Extremism and threat it poses to its Neighbours

Islamabad is also at odds with Washington and Kabul over Pakistan's support of Afghan militant groups

Sept 23, 2016: As two U.S. lawmakers pursue legislation to designate Pakistan a terror state, Islamabad is facing the threat of increasing diplomatic isolation over its inability to curb homegrown militancy and the threat it poses to its neighbours.

The legislation, introduced this week by Republican Representatives Ted Poe of Texas and Dana Rohrabacher of California, accuses Pakistan of harbouring global terrorist leaders and supporting terror groups. Among those groups is the Haqqani network, a U.S.-designated terrorist entity that opposes the Afghanistan government and U.S.-led NATO forces in the country.

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“Not only is Pakistan an untrustworthy ally, Islamabad has also aided and abetted enemies of the United States for years,” the proposed legislation said. “From harbouring Osama bin Laden to its cozy relationship with the Haqqani network, there is more than enough evidence to determine whose side Pakistan is on in the war on terror. And it’s not America’s.”

FILE - Women chant slogans condemning Islamist terrorism during an anti-terror rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015. VOA
FILE – Women chant slogans condemning Islamist terrorism during an anti-terror rally in Lahore, Pakistan, Jan. 16, 2015. VOA

Pakistan ‘a victim’

Pakistan accuses U.S. lawmakers of diplomatic theater, saying the harsh anti-Pakistani rhetoric belies that government’s efforts to root out extremism. Pakistani officials also say thousands of Pakistani lives have been lost in terror attacks.

“Pakistan is not supporting terrorism, it is rather a victim,” Rohail Dar, a leading member of the ruling Muslim League party, told VOA’s Urdu service. “Pakistan has suffered the most in the war against terrorism.”

In his speech before the United Nations on Wednesday, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said his government has a “comprehensive strategy of law enforcement and targeted military operations that has produced remarkable results and enabled Pakistan to turn the tide against terrorism.”

He did not address the issue of terrorist groups targeting neighbouring countries from Pakistan.

American lawmakers recently urged the U.S. government to cut off financial and military aid to Pakistan because its “military and intelligence services are still linked to terrorist groups.”

Facing isolation

While the U.S. bill has a long way to go before becoming law — a version of it must pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president — Washington’s tough stance shows the level of global and regional isolation that Islamabad is facing, analysts said.

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“Pakistan has not satisfied the U.S. on the question of its alleged support to the Haqqani network, and that is deteriorating the relations with the U.S.,” Peshawar University professor Ijaz Khattak told VOA’s Deewa service. “Pakistan’s relations with Afghanistan also are not good. It has tensions with India.”

A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday's attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir's Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA
A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday’s attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir’s Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016. VOA

A demonstrator hits a poster of Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during a protest organized by India’s main opposition Congress party against Sunday’s attack at an Indian army base camp in Kashmir’s Uri in Jammu, India, Sept. 21, 2016.

A deadly attack on Indian soldiers in Kashmir this week increased the tension between Pakistan and India to levels not seen since the terror attack on Mumbai in 2008.

India blames Pakistan for allowing the attack. Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh called Pakistan a terrorist state and said it “should be identified and isolated as such.”

The Pakistan government has rejected the allegations and accuses India of oppressing Kashmiris and violating their human rights.

U.S., Afghan opposition

Islamabad is also at odds with Washington and Kabul over Pakistan’s support of Afghan militant groups.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry asked Sharif, during a meeting this week on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, to prevent Pakistan from being used as a harbor for terrorists.

“We have repeatedly asked our neighboring country Pakistan to destroy the known terrorist safe havens, but we unfortunately are yet to witness any change in the situation,” Afghan Vice President Sarwar Danesh said Wednesday at the United Nations. “Terrorist attacks are being planned on Pakistani territory.”

Danesh’s comments came days after bombings in New York and New Jersey.

Ahmad Khan Rahami is taken into custody after a shootout with police Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. VOA
Ahmad Khan Rahami is taken into custody after a shootout with police Monday, Sept. 19, 2016. VOA

Ahmad Khan Rahami is taken into custody after a shootout with police Monday, Sept. 19, 2016.

The bombing suspect, Ahmad Khan Rahami, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan, traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan several years ago. While in Pakistan, he reportedly spent time in Quetta and Karachi, which are considered hubs for the Taliban and other militant groups.

The two U.S. lawmakers are pushing the bill now “because of the recent Kashmir attack, though perhaps also coupled with the fact that the man accused of staging the recent New York City blasts had spent time in Pakistan,” said Michael Kugelman, an analyst at Washington’s Wilson Center, a global policy research group. “For these two congressmen, this man’s connections to Pakistan likely reinforced the fact that terrorism has many links to Pakistan.” (VOA)

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