Islamabad: In its formal comprehensive response to US President Donald Trump's South Asia strategy, Pakistan's civil-military leadership has rejected allegations that it was harbouring Taliban militants.
According to a report in "The Nation" today, the rebuttal was issued after a meeting of the National Security Committee attended by top civilian and military leaders chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi in Islamabad yesterday.
The leadership told the United States, loud and clear, that scapegoating Pakistan would not be helpful in achieving peace in Afghanistan.
The NSC meeting reminded the US that the claims of billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan were also "misleading to the extent that the reimbursements to Pakistan since 2001 only account for part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the US for its operations in Afghanistan, rather than any financial aid or assistance." The NSC meeting was attended by the services chiefs, key Cabinet members and others.
US President Donald Trump this week attacked Pakistan's anti-terror policy. The US leader also conditionalised Pak-US partnership to Islamabad's action against the alleged 'safe havens' of the terrorists.
A participant of the meeting told "The Nation" that the civil and military leadership was furious about Trump's assault on Pakistan's credibility.
"We all agreed that he had no right to abuse Pakistan in this way especially after we lost so much to terrorism," said the source.
He said Prime Minister Abbasi was given the mandate to take up the issue forcefully as relationships with other countries were not above Pakistan's sovereignty.He said there was a general consensus that
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif should discuss the issue in detail with his US counterpart during his visit to Washington.
An official statement issued after the meeting said the NSC discussed the Trump Administration's South Asia strategy. "The committee outrightly rejected the specific allegations and insinuations made against Pakistan. It was observed that to scapegoat Pakistan will not help in stabilising Afghanistan. In fact, being its immediate neighbour, Pakistan has an abiding interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan," it said.
The committee observed that Pakistan had to manage the blowback of a protracted conflict in Afghanistan that resulted in a deluge of refugees, a flow of drugs and arms and more recently in the shape of terrorist safe havens in eastern Afghanistan from where anti-Pakistan terrorist groups continue to operate and launch attacks inside Pakistan.
"The fact remains that the complex issues and internal dynamics inside Afghanistan pose a grave challenge not only to Pakistan but to the broader region and the international community," it said.
While noting the US commitment to continue to shoulder the burden of Afghanistan and reverse the expanding ungoverned spaces in the country, the committee observed that Pakistan has consistently supported all international efforts for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan and has also committed more than a billion US dollars for infrastructure and social development in that country.
Over the years, Pakistan has worked with both the United States and Afghanistan to promote peace through a politically negotiated outcome which, in Pakistan's view, remains the best option to bring stability to this war-torn country. "A prolonged military campaign in Afghanistan has resulted in destruction and killing of hundreds of thousands of Afghan civilians," said the statement.
"Pakistan has also endorsed and supported all Afghan-owned and Afghan-led initiatives for peace," it said.
It is Pakistan's expectation that any strategy adopted to stabilize Afghanistan will succeed to end this protracted conflict and usher in an era of peace in the country paving way for the dignified return of millions of Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan for which we are willing to extend all possible cooperation, it added.
"More specifically, we would like to see effective and immediate US military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harbouring terrorists and miscreants on the Afghan soil including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan. The Afghan war cannot be fought in Pakistan," it said.
On its own part, Pakistan has taken indiscriminate actions against all terrorist networks and sacrificed tens of thousands of troops and civilians in this fight. The demonstrated security improvement inside Pakistan would not have been possible without eliminating all terrorist hideouts, the statement said.
"Moreover, successful cooperation with the US in the past against the common enemy, terrorism, reflects Pakistan's unflinching commitment to eliminate this menace," it said.
The committee stressed that "instead of any financial or material assistance, there should be understanding and recognition of our efforts, contributions, and sacrifice of thousands of Pakistanis and over 120 billion US dollars of economic losses. We consider the lives of the citizens of other countries as sacrosanct as those of our own and, therefore, Pakistan is committed to not allowing its soil to be used for violence against any other country. We expect the same from our neighbours".
"Pakistan's effective counter-terrorism operations have clearly proved that the tide of terrorism can be reversed and we are willing to share our experience with both the US and Afghanistan," it said.
"This would require working together and focusing on core issues of eliminating safe havens inside Afghanistan, border management, the return of refugees and reinvigorating the peace process for a political settlement in Afghanistan," it said.
The NSC stressed that India 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 destabilizing Pakistan from the east and the west.
The Committee expressed deep concern at Indian policies inimical to peace in the region including interference in the internal affairs of neighbouring countries and using terrorism as an instrument of state policy.
The committee condemned the state inflicted repression on the people of Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir and reiterated Pakistan's continued diplomatic, political and moral support for their struggle for self-determination.
The committee reaffirmed Pakistan's resolve to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The committee underscored that as a responsible nuclear weapon state, Pakistan has in place a robust and credible command and control system which has been universally recognized and appreciated.
Pakistan will continue to extend all possible cooperation to the international community for achieving the common objectives of peace and stability in Afghanistan and in the broader region, the NSC decided.