ISLAMABAD: Pakistan rejected on Thursday the US State Department’s annual assessment that it did not take substantial action against the Afghan Taliban or Haqqani network or limit their ability to threaten US interests in Afghanistan.
“We have taken indiscriminate and all out action against terrorists,” Foreign Office Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria told reporters during his weekly press briefing, while reacting to the US State Department’s annual “Country Reports on Terrorism.”
In the report, the US accused Pakistan of providing ‘safe haven’ to terrorists, saying the country had not taken any substantial action against the Haqqani network of Afghan Taliban.
The report said while terrorist-related violence declined in Pakistan for the second straight year in 2016, terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM) continued to operate, train, organise and fundraise inside the country.
The State Department admitted al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan was seriously degraded as a result of Pakistan Army’s continued offensive against the terror group’s presence in North Waziristan, successfully restricting its freedom to operate in the region.
The report, however, said Afghanistan experienced aggressive and coordinated attacks by the Afghan Taliban, including the Haqqani network and other insurgent groups, claiming a number of such attacks had been planned and launched from ‘safe havens’ in Pakistan.
Zakaria contested the claim, insisting that most of the militants fled to Afghanistan after Pakistan’s successful operation in the tribal areas.
“As is evident from the statistics and media reports available, a considerable number of leaders and senior commanders of the Haqqani network and other terrorists have been killed inside Afghanistan,” he said, rebutting charges that the deadliest militant outfit was operating in Pakistan.
“Our efforts have been met with success, and acknowledged by a number of countries, including the US. Various delegations, who came to Pakistan from US and other countries, have visited the affected areas, which we successfully cleansed from terrorism,” the spokesperson maintained.
On the Trump administration’s policy review on Afghanistan, Zakaria said the process was yet to complete. “We will only be able to comment once the contents of review are shared with us,” he added.
Regarding the proposed bill seeking tough restrictions on Pakistan, Zakaria said the bill was still under legislative process, therefore, it would be premature to comment on it.
“However, Pakistan-US cooperation in diverse areas are longstanding. As far as our role in the context of peace in Afghanistan is concerned, Pakistan’s position is clear. Pakistan wants to see peace and stability in Afghanistan, which we firmly believe is in its interest.”
Meanwhile, the spokesperson strongly denounced the continued ceasefire violations by the Indian troops, saying India wanted to divert attention from the current uprising in Kashmir through such aggressive tactics.
The spokesperson urged India to respect the mandate of the United Nations Military Observer Group in India, Pakistan (UNMOGIP), for peace and tranquility on the Line of Control (LoC).
He added that the UNMOGIP had the mandate to monitor ceasefire violations on the LoC and the Working Boundary.
“Pakistan has always extended full cooperation to the UN observer group while the Indian side is giving limited access to it in Occupied Kashmir,” the spokesperson said.
Zakaria said India must realise that consultation and peaceful co-existence, and not confrontation, is the way forward.
Earlier in the day, the FO also summoned the Indian deputy high commissioner for a second consecutive day and lodged strong protest with him over unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Indian forces in Nakial and Nezapir sectors along the LoC.
The Indian side was told that deliberate targeting of civilians was deplorable and contrary to human dignity as well as international human rights and humanitarian laws.
It urged India to respect the 2003 ceasefire arrangement, investigate ceasefire violations and instruct its forces to respect the ceasefire in letter and spirit in order to maintain peace on the LoC.