US ambassador calls for action against Haqqani network

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Asif welcomes US mediation in easing tension with India
Sophia Siddiqui

Islamabad

The United States has asked Pakistan to take decisive action against terrorist groups. A similar demand was communicated earlier by the Trump administration through US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on his visit to Pakistan last month.
Speaking to the media at a session under Track 2-1.5 dialogue Monday, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale said the US wants Pakistan to deal with all the groups in the same way. He added Taliban will have to be pressurized until they agree on holding talks and until they let minorities live in safety.
He spoke about the new US policy for the region, saying it was meant to destroy safe havens of terrorists and to encourage economic prosperity in South Asian countries.
However, Hale added, the leadership in Pakistan has assured of expediting its efforts to restore peace in Afghanistan.
The Track 2-1.5 dialogue Hale was speaking at was being attended by officials of Pakistan and US as well as those from US and Pakistan based think-tanks, Wilson Centre and Regional Peace Institute.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Khawaja Asif responded to the US demand saying there were no organized terrorist networks operating on Pakistani soil.
“ Pakistan’s effective counter terrorism efforts have checked the surge of terrorist networks and the country is back on the track of development,” Khawaja Asif said.
The foreign minister said with self defence and self-interest as our first priority we are fully committed to protect the sovereignty of our motherland. He said we will also not allow our soil to be used against any other country.
Khawaja Asif said in the era of challenging and complex international relations, states should focus on long term partnerships and cooperation.
He said with peace and stability in Afghanistan as our ultimate goal, we have and are ready to extend every effort to achieve that end.
The Foreign Minister said Pakistan has also reached out to other regional countries and regional fora like SAARC in its efforts for peace in Afghanistan.
He said intelligence sharing is imperative for improving border management with Afghanistan. He said the United States should share timely intelligence and Pakistan would take action itself. He said Pakistan would continue its fight against terror till elimination of the last terrorist.
Regarding US south Asia Policy and the role of India Khawaja Asif said, the United States has assured us that Indian role in Afghanistan will be limited to economic assistance only.
He said Pakistan welcomes mediation by United States in easing its ties with India as Pakistan has always opted for comprehensive dialogue for peaceful neighborhood.
emphasized that SAARC should be activated and steps taken for promotion of regional trade as the region has long been suffering due to instability in Afghanistan.
Khawaja Asif said it is unfair to blame Pakistan for what ails Afghanistan toady as Pakistan has after great sacrifices eliminated terrorism from its soil and now there are no terrorist safe havens here.
Later talking to media, the Foreign Minister said differences in Pak-US bilateral relations are only misperceptions which are being put aside by continued dialogue.
He said the recent high level exchanges between the two countries have cleared the air and we look forward to confidence building so that the goal of peace that remained elusive can be achieved.
To a question regarding Afghan government’s stance for peace ,” Khawaja Asif said, the Afghan government should reach out to the elements within its ranks that do not want peace and stability in that country and the region.
Earlier in his address on the occasion, US ambassador to Pakistan David Hale said “peace through political settlement in Afghanistan is our ultimate and common objective.”
He said sustainable solutions for regional peace required collective efforts and Pakistan remained on the forefront of all such efforts.
He said, “ we are facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan by enabling that country’s government and by bringing together all regional stakeholders.
Khawaja Asif said , SAARC should be activated and steps taken for promotion of regional trade as the region has long been suffering due to instability in Afghanistan. He also said the differences in Pak-US bilateral relations are only misperceptions which are being put aside by continued dialogue.
He said the recent high level exchanges between the two countries have cleared the air and we look forward to confidence building so that the goal of peace that remained elusive can be achieved.
The Track 2-1.5 meeting in Islamabad was attended by Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, US Ambassador to Pakistan David Hale and Wilson Center Asia Programme Deputy Director Michael Kugelman among others.
Kugelman said the relationship between the US and Pakistan was going through a tough phase, but the former would need the latter till US is in Afghanistan. The first round of the dialogue was held in Kabul, second in Washington and third in Islamabad. During the current round, new US policy of President Donald Trump is being discussed, along with other issues.
The dialogue has been organised by Wilson Center, US think-tank, and US Department of State.

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