Islamabad: Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said he hasn’t received specific demands from the US on combating alleged militant sanctuaries at the border with Afghanistan, following Donald Trump’s announcement of a new South Asia strategy last month.
“We haven’t received any list of measures,” Abbasi told reporters in Islamabad on Tuesday. On the issue of militants sanctuaries in Pakistan, “we are open to bilateral verification, we are open to joint patrolling, we are open to joint posts” with Afghanistan, he said.
Trump accused Pakistan in an August 21 speech of continuing to provide safe haven to terrorist groups, such as the Haqqani Network, and allowing them to use its soil to attack troops in Afghanistan, a charge that Islamabad denies. As part of the new strategy for the war in Afghanistan, Trump said his government would take a tough position on Pakistan.
“We have nothing to hide, as a general rule you do not punish allies,” Abbasi said when asked about US plans to get tough on Pakistan and cutting billions of dollars worth of military and financial aid.
Pakistan’s forces have long been accused of covertly supporting insurgent groups that strike inside neighbouring Afghanistan and India, while targeting outfits that threaten its own domestic security. Afghanistan’s government is slowly losing its grip with the Taliban now controlling or contests about 40 per cent of the country, which US officials say couldn’t be possible without help from Pakistan’s military.
The US in previous offensives in Afghanistan used drones to attack alleged terrorists in Pakistan. Nato troops have also used Pakistani ports and roads to move equipment into landlocked Afghanistan.
Both Pakistan’s civilian government and military reacted angrily to Trump’s statement. Army Chief of Staff Qamar Javed Bajwa said Pakistan doesn’t want US assistance, but recognition of its own efforts to combat terrorism, pointing to thousands of its own troops who have died in operations in more than a decade.
Punjab Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif, younger brother of Abbasi’s predecessor — Nawaz Sharif — who was barred from office in July after a probe into his family’s finances, also called for an end to American aid last month.
Abbasi himself in an interview last month said Trump’s Afghanistan plan, which called on Pakistan’s arch-rival India to play a greater role in the conflict, is poised to fail.
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is on a trip to Turkey, following visits to China and Iran, to discuss Afghan peace strategy, Abbasi said. Trump’s statement is part of the discussions during Asif’s visit, he said.