Assures Pakistan’s commitment to fighting terrorism; Pakistan’s nuclear programme secure
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi had a brief meeting with US President Donald Trump at a reception the US leader hosted for the world leaders attending the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly.
The Prime Minister mentoned this at a luncheon meeting with the US Pakistan Business Council in New York on Wednesday. The interaction with President Trump took place after his 45-minute meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence, during which the two leaders had talks on bilateral issues and the Afghan situation.
“President Trump was very positive about Pakistan,” the Prime Minister told the American businessmen and investors. He said he told President Trump that Pakistan was committed to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.
Prime Minister Abbasi later told the Council for Foreign Relations that “Pakistan wants to move forward and remain engaged with the United States.” The White House, in a statement, said,” The Vice President and Prime Minister Abbasi had an important conversation about the President’s South Asia strategy that was announced late last month.”
According to the statement, the Vice President reiterated President Trump’s belief that “Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with our effort” in the region. In an interview to the New York Times published on Wednesday, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Pakistan was an active partner in the war on terror and has uprooted all sanctuaries used by militants in the rugged region along the border with Afghanistan.
The Prime Minister, who comne to the US to represent Pakistan in the United Nations General Assembly, said that there was a perception in Pakistan that all its efforts against the menace of terrorism had been unappreciated by the United States.
“The general perception in Pakistan was that our efforts were unappreciated, and today, we are being scapegoated,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying by the NYT. “We are active partners in the war on terror. No less than that.”
It may be mentioned here that as reported by US media, the new US policy towards Pakistan and its leaning towards India has generated sentiments of betrayal in the county and the analysts have warned that the new US policy was unlikely to work and would make it difficult for it to achieve its goal of peace in Afghanistan.
The US medias has extensively reported on the new US policy announced by President Trump last month in which he threatened to cut aid to Pakistan while making an oft-repeating allegations that Pakistan harbors terrorists.
Pakistan, which has paid heavy price in the global fight against terrorism has repeatedly stressed that it is targeting all terrorists without discrimination and that the extremist elements were on the run and have found refuge in neighboring Afghanistan. In the interview to the NYT, Prime Minister Abbasi said that Pakistani military forces had uprooted all the sanctuaries used by terrorists along the border with Afghanistan.
Prime Minister Abbasi said that the Pakistani forces have regained control of the area and there were no sanctuaries anymore.”There are none at all. I can categorically state that,” the Prime Minister was quoted as saying.
Prime Minister Abbasi also said that Pakistan did not have tactical nuclear weapons. He said that Pakistan have short-range nuclear weapons which were not designed for battlefield use and were under the same command and control safeguards as the rest of the Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, the NYT report said quoting the Prime Minister.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Wednesday said Pakistan had a fully secure, reliable and robust nuclear command and control system under a full civilian oversight. He was responding to questions after a talk here at the prestigious Council for Foreign Relations, an event that the CFR streamed live on its website and on Facebook Live.
“Our command and control system is as secure as anyone else has,” he told the participants. “Let there be no doubt about that”. It was Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s first such interaction at a think tank since he assumed his office last month. Abbasi is in New York to lead the Pakistan delegation at the United Nations General Assembly session.
He said Pakistan was a responsible nuclear state and had a track record of ensuring that its nuclear assets do not fall into wrong hands. Responding to a question about the country’s civilian nuclear power programme, he said the government wanted to diversify and utilise all resources to meet the energy needs.
To another question, he said Pakistan had only short range nuclear weapons to counter any threat from India. Periodic meetings, he said, were held and a regular review undertaken to ensure the safety and security of the country’s nuclear assets.
Prime Minister Abbasi said the issue of cross-border incursions from Afghanistan was very serious and recalled that five Afghans were arrested in the recent past for launching attacks inside Pakistan territory. He said Pakistan had proposed to Afghanistan joint patrols along the border and pointed out that for almost a 350 km long stretch there was not even a single Afghan soldier to man it.
These huge tracts of land are a haven for drug smugglers and terrorists,” he said and dismissed the Afghan allegations of any safe havens of terrorists within the Pakistan territory. He mentioned the large scale military operation launched by the Pakistan Army against the terrorists and said over 200,000 of its troops were on the hunt for any miscreants.
He said without proper border management the issue of cross-border terrorism would be hard to control and that was why Pakistan had started fencing to protect its territory. He also mentioned the presence of over three million Afghan refugees in the country.
He said Pakistan had an abiding interest for peace in its neighbourhood. “We seriously want to see stability in Afghanistan and desire a negotiated Afghan-led solution.”
“We believe war is no solution,” Prime Minister Abbasi saidm and added that Pakistan was open to any suggestions that would bring peace to Afghanistan. He said the Taliban were Afghan nationals and had nothing to do with Pakistan. “It is for the Afghans to find a way how to deal with them.” When asked about relations with the United States of America, Prime Minister Abbasi said, “We do not want these to be Afghan-centric”.
“Pakistan wants to move forward and remain engaged with the United States,” he said about his meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence. He, however, made it clear that there was a need to understand the sacrifices Pakistan had given to make the world a safer place to live in.
Prime Minister Abbasi had his first ever high level contact with the US leadership following the blunt allegations against Pakistan by President Donald Trump in his announcement of the new strategy on Afghanistan and the South Asia. He mentioned the high death toll the country had to bear, besides the loss of 120 billion dollars due to its role in the fight against terrorism. He said Pakistan did not even bill the United States for the use of its air and land routes, as it sincerely believed in defeating terrorism.
He said very little payments had been made to Pakistan in terms of military assistance. He, however, was appreciative of the role of the USAID in undertaking several projects in health and social sectors in Pakistan. “The world needs to understand that it is the only country that is fighting terror on the ground,” he added.
When asked whether his country would allow US bases in Pakistan, Prime Minister Abbasi said all states should respect the sovereignty of others and added, “I believe there is no need for any bases anymore.” He said Pakistan could not condone drone strikes to any targets on its soil. To a question about the releaser of Dr Afridi, who was arrested after the US raid on a hideout to take out Osama bin Laden, he said he was in detention and under trial for violating the laws of the land. He denied that he had any health issues and said it was his duty that if he had some information, he should have shared it with Pakistani security forces.
The Prime Minister said Pakistan desired equal treatment by the United States of America towards it and India. Responding to a question, he said the Indian aggression along the Line of Control was aimed at diverting attention from its atrocities against the civilian population of Jammu and Kashmir. He said the Indian occupation forces were engaged in “unbelievable atrocities” and “crimes against humanity”.
He said Pakistan desired to engage with India on the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. “We want normal relations with India, on the basis of trust and respect,” Abbasi said. To another question, he said, “Pakistan does not foresee any political or military role of India in Afghanistan.” He, however, added that India already had trade with Afghanistan.
When asked to compare his political party with that of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, he said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) believed in the sanctity of ballot, and that a political change needed to be brought through ballot and not by street power. Only the people of Pakistan were to judge in next summers, what would be their choice, he added. The talk was moderated by David E Sanger, a national security correspondent for the New York Times and one of its senior writers. With a team of his Times colleagues, he was the winner of the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in International Reporting.
Addressed the U.S.-Pakistan Business Council (USPBC) of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in New York, which was attended by prominent American business and industry leaders.—APP