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Pakistan rejects US criticism, calls for settling Kashmir issue

Pakistan has rejected the US’ accusation that it harbours terrorists and said the Kashmir issue is the “primary obstacle” to peace in the region.

world Updated: Aug 23, 2017 19:30 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Pakistan-US relations,US President Donald Trump,foreign minister Khawaj Asif
Khawaja Asif speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Islamabad March 6, 2014. REUTERS/Faisal Mahmood/Files

Pakistan on Wednesday rejected US President Donald Trump’s criticism of the country for harbouring terrorists and said the Kashmir issue is the “primary obstacle” to peace and stability in the region.

While unveiling his new policy for Afghanistan on Monday, Trump signalled a toughening of the US position on Pakistan for sheltering terror groups. He also spoke of working more closely with India, which he called on to provide more economic aid to Afghanistan.

In a terse reaction to Trump’s remarks, the Foreign Office advised the US to work with Pakistan to eradicate terrorism “instead of relying on the false narrative of safe havens”.

The statement also noted that regional peace and security “could not be isolated from the complex interplay of geopolitics, continued existence of festering disputes and pursuit of hegemonic policies” – an apparent reference to India’s role in Afghanistan.

“Non-resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remains the primary obstacle to peace and stability in the region,” the statement added.

US officials have warned that aid to Pakistan might be cut and Washington might downgrade Islamabad’s status as a major non-NATO ally to pressure it to do more to help end America’s longest-running war in Afghanistan.

But foreign minister Khawaja Asif rejected the US criticism, saying Pakistan should not blamed for the failure of the US military.

“They should not make Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures in Afghanistan,” Asif told Geo News channel. “Our commitment to war against terrorism is unmatched and unshaken.”

Pakistan, he said, had suffered great losses because of terrorism – the government estimates 70,000 people have died since it joined the US-led war on terrorism after the 9/11 attacks. Asif also dismissed the notion the US could “win the war against terror by threatening us or cornering us”.

“Our contributions, sacrifices and our role as a coalition country have been disregarded and disrespected,” Asif said. He added that Pakistan was also angered by Trump’s appeal to India to do more in Afghanistan.

During his speech on the new US policy for Afghanistan, Trump had said: “We can no longer be silent about Pakistan’s safe havens for terrorist organisations.”

He added, “We have been paying Pakistan billions and billions of dollars at the same time they are housing the very terrorists that we are fighting. But that will have to change and that will change immediately.”

The Foreign Office statement also reiterated that “there is no exclusive military solution to the crisis in Afghanistan”. Military action over the past 17 years had not brought peace to Afghanistan and “is not likely to do so in the future”. Only an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned politically negotiated solution could lead to sustainable peace, it added.

First Published: Aug 23, 2017 17:31 IST