Pak concerned over Pence’s remarks

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Rejects US allegations regarding terrorists

Zahid Chaudhary

Islamabad

Secretary Foreign Affairs Tehmina Janjua on Friday expressed concern over the remarks of US Vice President Mike Pence about Pakistan during his surprise visit to Afghanistan.
She briefed the Senate Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs Friday in Islamabad on the recent developments in the wake of the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, Islamabad’s stance on the issue and the visit of the US Defence Secretary to Pakistan.
On Thursday, US Vice President Mike Pence repeated Trump’s allegations against Pakistan, saying it has much to lose by harbouring “criminals and terrorists.”
“Those days are over,” Pence said. Pakistan had much to gain from partnering with the United States, and much to lose by harboring “criminals and terrorists,” he said at Bagram.
Ms Janjua expressed concern over the recent statements of Pence and Pentagon, saying Pakistan had eradicated terror safe havens from its territory.
She outright rejected the allegations levelled against Pakistan, saying the country was a target of state-sponsored terrorism funded and abetted by its enemies. Efforts were afoot to damage the image of Pakistan, she added.
She said America should also pay heed to Islamabad’s concerns and treat Pakistan and neighbouring India equally.
“The bigger question is how the US addresses Pakistan’s concerns The fact is terrorists wanted in Pakistan are hiding in Afghanistan and the refugee situation is also creating major problems for Islamabad.”
Briefing the committee on US Secretary of Defence James Mattis’s visit to Pakistan, she said the matters pertaining to regional security situation and bilateral ties between the two countries came under discussion.
Islamabad conveyed its concern over the use of Afghan soil to launch offensives in Pakistan and terrorists’ safe havens in the neighbouring country and the US side assured to look into the issues, she said.
Despite recent high level exchanges, relations between Islamabad and Washington are once again appearing to be taking a nosedive in the wake of scathing remarks by the US administration alleging that Pakistan had sanctuaries of terrorists.
The latest is the US Vice President Mike Pence state in which he stated that saying that the Trump administration had put Pakistan on notice. Foreign office said the statements diverge from recent conversations between officials of two countries.
Allies do not put each other on notice,” the FO statement said, noting that Pence’s scathing remarks were “in variance with the extensive conversations we have had with the US administration”. The Foreign Office in a statement stressed the need for the US to create peace and reconciliation mechanisms instead of shifting blame onto Pakistan for its failures in Afghanistan.
The Foreign Office (FO) on Friday lashed out at the United States (US) hours after Vice President Mike Pence’s warning that the Trump administration has “put Pakistan on notice”, claiming that the statements diverged from recent conversations between both countries’ officials.
“Externalising blame should be put on notice,” the FO said, in addition to a host of “factors responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, industrial scale corruption, breakdown of governance, and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan.”
Pence’s statement is the harshest US warning to Pakistan since the beginning of the Afghan war more than 16 years ago and follows several recent statements, indicating all is not well between the two sides regardless of dialogue at different levels that also saw the US secretary of state and secretary of defense visiting Islamabad.
During the meeting of Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, Foreign Affairs Secretary Tehmina Janjua said Islamabad rejected US VP Pence’s rhetorical statement and allegations outright, and posed the question of how the US would be able to address Pakistan’s regional security concerns.
Janjua said that Islamabad and Washington are in touch regarding the US’ “unilateral action” statements. “How can unilateral action be taken on a single source of information?” she asked.
“Pakistan has no terrorist sanctuaries,” she asserted, adding that the presence of terrorists in Afghanistan has been detrimental to Pakistan’s safety. She also accused India of using Afghan soil to destabilise Pakistan.
Rejecting Pence’s claim on the presence of terrorists on the Pakistani side of the Pak-Afghan border, Janjua said that Operation Khyber-2 had already cleansed the area of terrorists. “However, if actionable intelligence is provided to us, Pakistan can conduct intelligence-based operations,” she added.
Pakistan wanted talks with India to resolve all issues amicably, the foreign secretary said, and added India was perpetuating violence against Kashmiris in the Occupied Kashmir.
Earlier United States (US) Vice President Mike Pence during a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Friday issued a warning to Pakistan that it has allegedly provided safe haven to terrorists for too long but those days are over now, as President Donald Trump has now “put Pakistan on notice.” This is so far the harshest US warning to Pakistan since the beginning of the Afghan war more than 16 years ago and follows several recent statements, indicating US indignation with Islamabad.
The US vice president made the remarks as he addressed US troops at the Bagram airfield, becoming the most senior Trump administration official to visit the men and women fighting America’s longest-ever war.
Pence’s remarks earned wild applause from the 15,000 US troops who were excited to see the vice president among them on a surprise Christmas visit.
“For too long has Pakistan provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organisations, but those days are over,” Pence told the troops.
He reiterated word for word President Donald Trump’s warning that Pakistan must stop offering cross-border safe havens to Taliban factions and armed militant groups fighting US troops and their Afghan allies.
“President Trump has put Pakistan on notice. As the President said, so I say now: Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States, and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists,” the US VP added.
In August, President Trump outlined a new strategy to win America’s longest war.
The new US strategy for Afghanistan shows that Pakistan’s strategic position stokes Washington’s desire for a close relationship with Islamabad but it also undermines the relationship between the two countries.
This key element in the US approach to Pakistan is highlighted in the national security strategy that President Trump released this week and also in the Pentagon’s latest report to Congress on the situation in Afghanistan.

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