WASHINGTON DC: Ambassador to the United States (US) Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry has castigated the decision of US President Donald Trump to suspend security aid to Pakistan, saying it runs counter to conversations the two countries have had over finding common ground in fighting global terrorism.
Earlier this month, the Trump administration announced that it would withhold security assistance to Pakistan, including reimbursement for expenses incurred by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism, accusing Islamabad of not being fully cooperative in its dealing with terrorist groups.
Pakistan has already rejected these allegations, saying the country’s indiscriminate action against extremist groups has reversed the tide of terrorism and forced militants to flee across the border and take refuge in Afghanistan, from where they are busy plotting attacks on Pakistani soil.
In a series of interviews to foreign media outlets, including BBC, CNN International, Voice of America and Fox News, the Ambassador said that Pakistan was disappointed and surprised over US actions against its long-time ally, which had suffered the most in the war on terror.
“The war on terror has killed thousands of innocent people in Pakistan and resulted in a shattered economy.”
“Pakistanis are surprised because the conversations we had with the US leadership when two US Secretaries visited Pakistan were different, like in words of Secretary (James) Mattis, we were searching for common ground to work together,” Chaudhry remarked.
Referring to the infamous tweet by President Trump that preceded the decision, Aizaz Chaudhry was of the opinion that the language used was ‘opposite’ to what it should have been given the contribution and sacrifices Pakistan had made in fighting terrorism, both with the help of the US and also on its own.
Replying to another question about the tweet, Chaudhry noted that the state usually refrained from responding to tweets, but since it came from the highest level of US decision-making, Islamabad paid full attention to it, recognizing that it might end up in a policy decision.
“We did not act in a ‘tit-for-tat’ manner. We prepared an institutional response which was issued after the meeting of our National Security Committee (NSC),” he maintained, referring to consultation meetings that had been chaired by Prime Minister (PM) Shahid Khaqan Abbasi soon after President Trump’s new year tweet.
Pressed to comment on the role American aid played for the economy of Pakistan, Ambassador Chaudhry said that the country had clearly indicated that it did not want US aid at the cost of its dignity.
“We also questioned the figure of $33 dollars. Nearly half of it is the reimbursement of the expenditure incurred by Pakistan in the fight against terrorism,” Aizaz observed.
Ambassador Chaudhry cited the significant successes Pakistan had achieved in its fight against terrorists over the past two years that had salutary effect on the country’s economy.
“The situation in Afghanistan has unfortunately deteriorated and almost 43 per cent area in the country is not under the direct control of Afghan government. There are ungoverned spaces which attract terrorist elements,” Chaudhry said in response to questions about Afghanistan.
In the backdrop of the worsening security situation, Aizaz Chaudhry said that it was easy to scapegoat Pakistan for failures in Afghanistan. He also underscored the need for cooperation between Islamabad and Kabul to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan.
“The way forward is, if both Pakistan and Afghanistan intend to stabilize the situation in Afghanistan, then it is just the question of reconciling the methodologies and working together for a common goal.”
Ambassador Chaudhry stated that Pakistan valued its relationship with the US, and wanted to build that relationship because there was a lot of work still to be done in Afghanistan.
“President Trump’s tweet is incomprehensible and disappointing, because there is a genuine desire on behalf of Pakistan to work with the US in order to defeat the menace of terrorism.”