After Trump tweet, angry Pak summons US envoy, PM calls security meet
Foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua sought an explanation from the envoy over Trump’s tweet.Updated: Jan 02, 2018 23:00 IST
Pakistan’s top leadership reacted angrily on Tuesday to President Donald Trump’s threat to cut off aid over the country’s counterterrorism efforts, saying the US leader’s accusations had damaged trust between the two countries.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi went into a huddle with the civilian and military leadership to frame a response to the allegations by Trump, who, in his first tweet of 2018, said the US had “foolishly” given $33 billion as aid to Pakistan and got “nothing but lies and deceit”.
The Foreign Office summoned US Ambassador David Hale on Monday night and lodged a protest. Foreign secretary Tehmina Janjua sought an explanation from the envoy over Trump’s tweet. The US embassy confirmed Hale was summoned to the foreign ministry at 9 pm.
Following a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) chaired by Abbasi, an official statement said Trump’s allegations were “completely incomprehensible as they contradicted facts manifestly, struck with great insensitivity at the trust between (the) two nations built over generations, and negated the decades of sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation”.
The leaders contended that Pakistan had fought the war against terrorism with its own resources and at a great cost to the economy. The sacrifices made by Pakistan “could not be trivialised so heartlessly by pushing all of it behind a monetary value – and that too an imagined one”, the statement said.
Trump’s accusations were also puzzling because they were in contrast to the “positive direction” of bilateral ties, it added.
Pakistan’s ambassador to the US was called to Islamabad for the meeting, which also reviewed Islamabad’s overall foreign policy. The meeting was attended by the chiefs of the three services and National Security Adviser Nasser Janjua.
Shortly before the meeting, the powerful military finalised its suggestions for Pakistan’s response during a Corps Commanders’ Conference chaired by army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.
Pakistan’s parliament also convened a meeting of its committee on national security on Friday to discuss Trump’s threat.
Soon after Trump’s tweet, foreign minister Khawaja Asif responded by saying: “The US should hold its own people accountable for its failures in Afghanistan.”
He told a TV news channel, “We have already said ‘no more’ to America, so Trump’s ‘no more’ has no importance. We are ready to give all accounts for every single penny to America in public.”
Asif said the US is frustrated by its defeat in Afghanistan but Washington should still opt for the path of dialogue instead of using its military might.
Defence minister Khurram Dastgir Khan said Pakistan is fully capable of defending itself. Responding on Trump’s tweet, he said Pakistan has extended unprecedented cooperation to the US in defeating al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and fighting the war on terrorism.
Pakistan does not have any safe havens for terrorists, he said. “Instead, terrorists from Afghanistan have repeatedly targeted our armed forces and civilians,” Khan said.
Pakistani officials also highlighted to the national media how other countries, particularly China, had endorsed the country’s fight against terror and the sacrifices it had made.
Former ambassador to the US and senior Pakistan People’s Party leader Sherry Rehman pointed to the gaps in Pakistan’s foreign policy, which she said were the foremost reason the country was in a difficult situation internationally. Due to the lack of a dedicated lobbyist in the US and a foreign minister, Pakistan had left the ground completely for four years, she said.
Minister of state for information and broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb said the US should not blame Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan. Noting the country has made numerous sacrifices in the war against terror, she told state-run Radio Pakistan that all political parties should be united on the issue of national security.
Record for all the aid Pakistan had received from the US were available and “sensitive issues should not be discussed through tweets”, she said.
But not everyone was shocked by Trump’s tweet. Senior analyst M Ziauddin commented, “Let us take the new warning seriously and not let Sheikh Rashids and Shireen Mazaris formulate our foreign policy.”
There is growing criticism within Pakistan over its foreign policy objectives, with some quarters agreeing with the contention of Trump.
Writer Sara Taseer commented, “Pakistan foolishly went into a war that was never ours, it cost billions, more than the dollars you gave and thousands of precious lives. USA, with its military prowess but terrible strategy, failed to defeat Taliban in Afghanistan and now blames Pakistan for their own failure.”