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No Safe Haven for Terrorists in the Country, Asserts Pakistan ; Becomes Vary of Coercive Action by the US

Rejecting claims of terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, Pakistani Defense minister has asserted that his country is not feeling threatened by the U.S. following Trump's harshly worded speech.

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terrorists in Pakistan
Pakistan police officers fire tear gas shell to disperse Shiite Muslims during an anti-U.S rally, when they tried to march toward the U.S. consulate, in Karachi, Pakistan, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. (AP Photo/Fareed Khan) (VOA)
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  • U.S. President Donald Trump in his speech called out Pakistan for harboring terrorist organizations, including the Taliban and Haqqani network
  • US considering strict measures like increasing diplomatic and economic pressure, and intensifying anti-terrorism drone strikes to keep terrorist sanctuaries under check in Pakistan
  • Pakistani ministers have rejected claims of hosting any terrorist sanctuaries 

Islamabad, September 6, 2017 : Pakistan says it seeks to amicably resolve issues with the United States, cautioning “any [coercive] American action” would cause instability in the country.

The remarks by Defense Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan came 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, though, such as increasing diplomatic and economic pressure, and intensifying and expanding anti-terrorism drone strikes inside Pakistan.

terrorists in Pakistan
Pakistani protesters burn posters of U. S. President Donald Trump in Peshawar, Pakistan, Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017. Protesters have rejected Trump’s allegation that Islamabad is harboring militants who battle U.S. forces in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Muhammad Sajjad) (VOA)

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.

Minister Khan 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.

US relationship

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.

BRICS on terrorism

On Monday, China, and the four other countries that comprise the BRICS group of major emerging economies — India, Russia, Brazil and South Africa — agreed to boost cooperation against terrorist organizations threatening the region.

A statement issued after a BRICS’ leaders’ summit hosted by China contained the names of Pakistan-based, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad militant groups blamed for orchestrating attacks against India. Pakistani authorities already have outlawed the organizations.

terrorist in Pakistan
In this April 3, 2012, Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawwa and founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, talks with the Associated Press in Islamabad, Pakistan. (VOA)

Responding to the BRICS’ announcement, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said it also is concerned about the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in South Asia.

In a brief statement, the ministry 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 reads.

Islamabad alleges that India is partnering with the Afghan intelligence agency to support anti-state militants sheltering in Afghanistan to plan attacks against Pakistan, charges Kabul and New Delhi reject. (VOA)

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Taliban And The U.S. Set To Meet in UAE

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians

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USA, afghanistan, taliban
U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, talks with local reporters at the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 18, 2018. VOA

A Pakistan-arranged meeting between U.S. and Taliban officials will be held Monday in the United Arab Emirates to push a political settlement to the war in Afghanistan.

The special representative for Afghan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, will lead the U.S. team at the talks in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the gulf state, a senior Pakistani official privy to the development confirmed to VOA on Sunday.

The official, requesting anonymity, said Islamabad has facilitated the dialogue after President Donald Trump wrote to Prime Minister Imran Khan earlier this month seeking his cooperation in bringing the Taliban to the table for peace negotiations.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a brief statement sent to VOA, has confirmed participation of its political negotiators in Monday’s meeting with American officials, but said that representatives of the host country, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia will also be in attendance.

Imran Khan, Taliban
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a press conference in Putrajaya, Malaysia, Nov. 21, 2018. VOA

Initially, it was Khan who disclosed on Friday that Pakistan-aided talks between U.S. and Taliban officials would take place on December 17, though he would not say where.

The Pakistani prime minister, while speaking in the northwestern city of Peshawar, explained his country has agreed to assist in Afghan peace efforts because Washington has changed its position by requesting help, instead of saying Islamabad is not doing enough, as U.S. leaders have previously insisted.

A spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday hailed Khan’s remarks and support for a political reconciliation in the war-ravaged neighboring country.

“The United States welcomes any actions by the Pakistani government to promote greater cooperation, including fostering negotiations between the Taliban, the Afghan government, and other Afghans,” the spokesperson told VOA.

“Special Representative Khalilzad has met, and will continue to meet, with all interested parties, including the Taliban, to support a negotiated settlement to the conflict in Afghanistan,” noted the U.S. embassy official.

taliban, afghanistan
Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, right, head of the Taliban’s political council in Qatar, takes part in the multilateral peace talks on Afghanistan in Moscow, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

 

In his speech on Friday, Khan said that if peace were achieved in Afghanistan, his country will be the immediate beneficiary in terms of security, economic stability and regional connectivity.

Khalilzad, is visiting regional countries to gather support for Afghan peace talks. He is 14 days into an 18-day visit to the region and has already visited Pakistan, Afghanistan, Russia, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Belgium.

Since taking office in September, the Afghan-born U.S. special envoy has held two meetings with the Taliban in Qatar, where the insurgent group operates its so-called “political office.”

But those talks have been for the sake of talks, say insurgent and Pakistani officials.

Demands, accusations

Pakistani officials privy to Khalilzad’s interaction with the Taliban have told VOA that until now no progress has been achieved because the insurgents adamantly demand “a date or timeframe” for all U.S. and NATO troops to withdraw from Afghanistan before the Taliban decides to participate in an intra-Afghan peace process.

Afghanistan, Taliban
Security forces inspect the site of a deadly blast in the center of Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 12, 2018. VOA

 

Washington has long maintained Taliban leaders are sheltering in Pakistan with covert support from the country’s intelligence agency. Washington has been urging Islamabad to use its influence to bring the insurgents to the negotiating table.

Pakistani officials say their influence over the Taliban has significantly declined over the years because the insurgents have gained control over large areas of Afghanistan and continue to pose serious battlefield challenges for U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.

Also Read: U.S. Welcomes Pakistan’s Actions Towards Peace in Afghanistan

The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 17 years ago and the war with the Taliban has since killed nearly 150,000 people, including Afghan civilians, security forces, insurgents and more than 2,400 American soldiers, according to an American University study released recently.

The longest war effort in U.S. history has also cost Washington nearly one trillion dollars. The Taliban has expanded its insurgent activities and currently controls or hotly contests about half of Afghanistan. The conflict is said to have killed more Afghan civilians and security forces in 2018 than in any other year. (VOA)