Pak envoy says no safe havens for terror in his country, US can’t stop laughing

Two panellists joined a former US diplomat to say that terrorist safe havens continue to exist in Pakistan and there was a level of support from Pak govt.

world Updated: Jun 09, 2017 10:47 IST
Press Trust of India, Washington
Pakistan envoy,Top diplomat,Terrorist safe havens
Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, Pakistan ambassador to the US.(File Photo)

Pakistan’s top diplomat in the US was laughed at by a Washington audience when he repeatedly insisted that there are no safe sanctuaries for terrorists in Pakistan and that the Taliban leader, who reportedly died in a hospital in Karachi, never left Afghanistan.

“What is there funny about,” a visibly irritated Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry, the Pakistan ambassador to the US, told a Washington think-tank audience which burst into laughter when he repeatedly argued that Mullah Omar never left Afghanistan to visit Pakistan.

The reality is, however, different, argued former US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as his country’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the UN.

“We have very firm evidence of his (Mullah Omar) presence in Pakistan, where he went, lived,,” he said, adding that for a long time there was the idea that bin Laden never left Afghanistan.

“There is ample evidence that while the operation was going on, Haqqani network was being evacuated to safer location,” the former US ambassador to Pakistan said during a panel discussion on ‘Regional Perspectives on the US Strategy in Afghanistan’, at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.

Chaudhry appeared to be isolated as two other panellists - former Indian minister Manish Tewari and top American think-tank expert Ashley Tellis - joined Khalilzad to say that terrorist safe havens continued to exist in Pakistan and there was a level of support from the Pakistani establishment.

“What sanctuaries you are talking about? If you want to live in the past, you cannot solve the present. Haqqani and the Taliban are not our friends. They are not our proxies. What Quetta Shura you are talking about? What Peshawar Shura?” the Pakistan ambassador questioned. The panel discussion had an abrupt end as Khalilzad and Chaudhry exchanged words.

Tellis said while the safe havens continue to exist in Pakistan, a great deal of financial and personnel supply does come from Afghanistan. But there is no denying that the Taliban leadership were based in Pakistan, he said.

Tewari said it was time that Pakistan should introspect as to why the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who went to Rawalpindi to meet the Pakistan Army chief, turned against Pakistan. Ghani was actually constrained to say Pakistan is having an undeclared war with Afghanistan.

“Those are extremely strong statements coming from the head of state,” he said.

During the question and answer session, an Afghan diplomat, Muhammad Asad, and an Afghan woman journalist Nazira Karimi of Ariana television joined the three other panellists to challenge Chaudhry’s assertion about terrorist safe havens.

“Our allegation is evidence-based,” Asad said adding that while the carrot formula has not worked, it is time for the US to look the other way around.

The Pakistan ambassador said his country wanted a peaceful, stable, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.

“Afghan soil should not be used against Pakistan. Other than that, we want to facilitate reconciliation. ..Just blaming Pakistan all the time will not help. What will help is recognise what Pakistan has done for Afghanistan,” he said.

Chaudhry accused India of being a part of a “double squeeze strategy”.

“India does have strategic interest in Afghanistan. It could be part of the double squeeze strategy against Pakistan. To that end an Afghanistan that is not stable would serve India’s purpose and that is why India is opposing reconciliation with Taliban of any kind,” Chaudhry said.

Chaudhry also accused India of trying to be a “hegemonic” power in the region.

First Published: Jun 09, 2017 10:00 IST