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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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President Donald Trump Key Force In Driving The Midterms Elections

Trump’s name will not appear on the Nov. 6 ballots, but, he will clearly be front and center in the minds of voters

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Donald Trump
President Donald Trump speaks at a rally endorsing the Republican ticket in Erie, Pennsylvania, VOA

Three weeks before a crucial U.S. midterm election, it would be difficult to find much that Democrats and Republicans agree on. Both parties, however, seem to agree on one thing: President Donald Trump will be the key issue in elections that will determine control of Congress for the next two years.

For many voters, the “Trump factor” could be a deciding consideration in this year’s midterms. And as the president campaigns on behalf of Republicans around the country, he is quick to remind his supporters that he has a huge personal stake in the outcome on Nov. 6.

“All of this extraordinary progress is at stake,” Trump told a recent rally in Southaven, Mississippi. “I’m not on the ballot. But in a certain way, I am on the ballot. So please, go out and vote. Go out and vote.”

Motivating Democrats

As much as Trump motivates his core supporters, he also energizes critics like Jenny Heinz, who helped organize a recent anti-Trump rally in New York City.

“There is an active resistance to this president, who is operating as if he is above the law.”

No question, Trump is the central figure in this year’s election, according to American University analyst David Barker.

“Yes, Democrats from the day after the election in 2016 have been waiting for this day, and it is all about Trump,” Barker told VOA. “Trump fully embraces that. He wants it to be all about him.”

Historically, midterm elections have been a mix of local issues, local candidates, and partly a referendum on the sitting president.

This year’s campaign seems to have accelerated a trend whereby midterm congressional elections have increasingly become nationalized.

“It really is now all national, and everyone is kind of looking at this as either a referendum for or against the president and his party,” said George Washington University expert Lara Brown.

Trump
supporters of President Donald Trump, wearing Mike Braun for Congress shirts, cheer as he arrives for a campaign rally at the Ford Center in Evansville, Ind. VOA

In the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, a majority of voters in both parties said a congressional candidate who shares their view of Trump is an important consideration as they assess the coming midterms.

Seizing the spotlight

Unlike some presidents who have tried to resist the idea that the midterms are a presidential referendum, Trump has willingly embraced it.

Former Trump strategist Steve Bannon told Associated Press Television that he favors the approach.

“I think if you make this a national referendum and nationalize this election on the success of President Trump’s program, it is a clear winner, and I think the Democrats get crushed.”

Others are skeptical, including former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.

“All right, fine. You want it to be about you? Well, every candidate on the ballot now has to account for your behavior, has to account for your tweets,” said Steele, a recent guest on VOA’s Plugged In with Greta Van Susteren.

Climate Change, Trump
President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. VOA

Trump hopes to boost Republican turnout in November; but, Democrats argue he is likely to be just as effective in spurring their voters to the polls.

Maryland Democratic Representative Dutch Ruppersberger also spoke on Plugged In.

“When all you do is care about yourself and not about people, not about what they need – like your seniors needing medical care. And you just want to look good and knock them out (politically), which is happening, this is hurting. And this is why, I think, a lot of people will come out (to vote).”

Tending the base

Trump has been aggressive on the campaign trail courting his base, especially in Republican-leaning states where many of this year’s closer Senate races are taking place.

“They are focusing on their base, and they are trying to make sure that they are going to show up and vote. And it could make some difference in close midterm elections,” said University of Virginia analyst Larry Sabato.

Trump, USA
House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wis. administers the House oath of office to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., during a mock swearing in ceremony on Capitol Hill in Washington, . VOA

Some Republicans have urged Trump to try and broaden his appeal beyond his base during campaign visits this year.

But Gallup pollster Frank Newport said the president has limited options.

Also Read: Obama On Why Its Important To Vote In This Midterm Elections

“He has kind of given up on attempting to broaden his appeal, it looks like. It fits more with his style,” said Newport. “He has, as we all know, a very combative style. He likes to have enemies because that gives him somebody to fight against. So, it would be hard for a president like Trump anyway to try and broaden his appeal.”

Trump’s name will not appear on the Nov. 6 ballots, but, he will clearly be front and center in the minds of voters, and the midterm results could determine the future of his presidency. (VOA)