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Pakistan PM, military ask US to root out terror in Afghanistan

A five-hour meeting of the National Security Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, rejected Trump’s remarks that Pakistan had been undermining the US’s “war against terror”.

world Updated: Aug 24, 2017 23:04 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi,Donald Trump,Afghanistan
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (left) heads a meeting of the National Security Committee in Islamabad on August 24, 2017. (AP)

Pakistan’s top leadership on Thursday called on the US to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries on Afghan soil as it rejected President Donald Trump’s call for India to take on a larger role in Afghanistan, saying New Delhi’s policies are “inimical to peace in the region”.

A five-hour meeting of the National Security Committee, which was attended by the three service chiefs and chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, rejected Trump’s remarks that Pakistan had been undermining the US’s “war against terror” despite receiving billions of dollars in aid.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the civilian and military leadership countered the US criticism by reminding it of Pakistan’s role in the protracted conflict and asking that Washington work with Islamabad with a focus on core issues such as the elimination of terrorist safe havens inside Afghanistan, better border management, the repatriation of millions of Afghan refugees and a re-invigoration of the Afghan peace process for a political settlement.

The leadership also roundly rejected Trump’s suggestion that India should do more in Afghanistan, with the committee saying that New Delhi “cannot be a net security provider in the South Asia region when it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbours and is pursuing a policy of destabilising Pakistan from the east and the west”.

The leadership expressed concern at “Indian policies inimical to peace in the region”, including alleged interference in internal affairs of neighbours and “using terrorism as an instrument of state policy”.

The committee also condemned what it described as “state inflicted repression on the people” of Jammu and Kashmir and reiterated Pakistan’s diplomatic, political and moral support for their “struggle for self-determination”.

The statement reflected Pakistan’s long-standing grievances regarding any major role for India in the development and reconstruction of Afghanistan.

While unveiling his new policy on Afghanistan, Trump had accused Pakistan of harbouring “agents of chaos” and providing safe havens to terror groups. He had called on Pakistan to change such policies even as White House officials threatened cuts in aid and military support, as well as other measures to force Pakistan’s hand.

The leadership also called on the US to appreciate Pakistan’s role in combating terror.

The meeting decided that as the next step, foreign minister Khawaja Asif will tour friendly nations for reassurances of their support. In the first of these visits, Asif will visit China, where he will consult the leadership and present Pakistan’s perspective.

Asif will also keep his commitment to US secretary of state Rex Tillerson to visit Washington and discuss the new South Asia policy. However, the visit to China will precede the US trip.

Asif announced the decisions made at the meeting in the Senate, saying Pakistan had to manage the blow-back of the protracted conflict in Afghanistan that had resulted in a deluge of refugees, flow of drugs and arms and, recently, terrorist safe havens in eastern Afghanistan.

He said, “The claims of aid worth billions of dollars being provided to us by the US are also misleading to the extent that since 2001, the reimbursements to Pakistan only account for a part of the cost of the ground facilities and air corridors used by the US for its operations in Afghanistan — rather than any financial aid or assistance.”

A politically negotiated outcome remains the best option to bring stability to Afghanistan and Pakistan has supported all Afghan-owned and Afghan-led initiatives for peace, he added.

First Published: Aug 24, 2017 23:01 IST