Tillerson in Pakistan with tough message on terror safe havens
The US secretary of state arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday after travelling to Iraq and Afghanistan in strict secrecy and met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa.Updated: Oct 24, 2017 20:11 IST
US secretary of state Rex Tillerson on Tuesday delivered a tough message to Pakistan on the importance of driving militants from hideouts on Pakistani soil, saying the country is key to joint goals of providing security to the region.
Tillerson arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday after travelling to Iraq and Afghanistan in conditions of strict secrecy. He met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, foreign minister Khawaja Asif, army chief Gen Qamar Bajwa and the heads of intelligence services.
It is believed that Tillerson gave a strong message to Pakistan’s top leadership to cooperate with the US in its policy on terrorism.
He told Abbasi Pakistan is “important regionally to our joint goals of providing peace and security to the region and providing opportunity for greater economic relationship”.
Abbasi said Pakistan is “committed in the war against terror”. He added, “The US can rest assured that we are strategic partners in the war against terror and that today Pakistan is fighting the largest war in the world against terror.”
Tillerson got a frosty welcome in Pakistan after Washington turned up the heat on Islamabad for providing “safe havens” to Taliban militants.
He was quietly greeted by a mid-level Pakistani Foreign Office official at the military airport in Rawalpindi, according to an AFP photographer – a welcome devoid of the pomp that usually marks high-level visits.
Tillerson was then driven in a convoy of Land Cruisers amid tight security to the US embassy in Islamabad’s diplomatic enclave, before his meetings with the prime minister and the powerful army chief.
In Afghanistan on Monday, Tillerson told reporters that Pakistan’s cooperation on counter-terrorism is essential for a good relationship with the US.
Pakistan, he said, needs to “take a clear-eyed view of the situation that they are confronted with in terms of the number of terrorist organisations that find safe haven inside of Pakistan”.
Earlier this month, the US campaign appeared to produce some success when Pakistani security forces assisted with the release of an American-Canadian family that was held captive by the Taliban for five years. However, officials cautioned that action needed to be followed with additional steps.
Tillerson, who will visit India after Pakistan, is in South Asia to outline the Trump administration’s new strategy for the region, which is heavy on combating extremist groups.
The secretary of state’s visit, the first to Pakistan by a senior Trump administration official, comes months after the US president angrily accused Islamabad of harbouring “agents of chaos” who attack US-led forces in neighbouring Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Senate chairman Raza Rabbani on Tuesday expressed concern over the statement made by Tillerson in Afghanistan a day earlier.
“His (Tillerson’s) tone and tenor are not acceptable,” Rabbani said. “His statement came one day before his visit to Pakistan. It seems like a viceroy told Tillerson what to say (on his visit).”
Rabbani, a senior leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, also summoned foreign minister Asif to appear before the Senate on Wednesday and inform members about the “US demands”. He said that the Parliament and Senate have been kept in the dark about the conditions that were laid down by the US.
He also suggested that Tillerson should read the resolutions and recommendations passed by the Parliament “so he knows what (Pakistan’s) reaction is”.