ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said that any sanctions against Pakistan would be counter-productive to the country’s own battle against militants, which he called “the largest war on terror in the world”.
In an interview on Monday with Reuters, Abbasi also stressed his government will push ahead with plans to seize control of charities run by a militant designated a terrorist by Washington, and warned the United States not to weaken Pakistan.
Abbasi brushed off US President Donald Trump’s recent tweet accusing Pakistan of “lies and deception” in its commitment to fighting terrorism, as he raised the prospect of charging the United States to use Pakistan’s airspace to resupply NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Under pressure from the United States and international institutions to crack down on terrorist financing, Pakistan last month drew up secret plans for a “takeover” of charities linked to militant leader Hafiz Saeed, who Washington blames for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.
“Yes, the government will take over the charities which are sanctioned and not allowed to operate,” Abbasi, 59, told Reuters at the prime minister’s chamber in Islamabad.
Answering specific questions about the proposed takeover of JuD and FIF, Abbasi said the civilian government had the backing of the powerful military.
“Everybody is on board, everybody is on the same page, everybody is committed to the implementation of UN sanctions,” he said.
He declined to set a deadline.
No more ‘do more’, PM tells US
Relaying a tough message to Washington ahead of his participation at an international conclave, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Tuesday said Pakistan “is not responsible for the Afghan Taliban’s action”.
“There is no more space for ‘do more’. I am not responsible for the Taliban. If they want to dialogue with the US, they can. We cannot be blamed for whatever is going on in Afghanistan,” he said shortly before leaving for Davos, Switzerland, to participate in the World Economic Forum.
“This is not my responsibility to bring peace in Afghanistan,” the prime minister said while sharing views during a meeting with the beat reporters of the Prime Minister Office, adding, “If the Taliban want to hold a dialogue with the US, its up to them to do so and blaming Islamabad for Kabul’s failed war on terror would not help.”
“If our cooperation is sought—to facilitate the dialogue process or for a negotiated settlement of Afghan conflict, we’ll render the necessary cooperation. War is not a solution and we have seen this in Afghanistan,” the prime minister said when asked to comment on strong statements coming from US President Donald Trump and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani against Pakistan.
“We have launched operations like Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fassad that broke the backbone of terrorism in Pakistan. If we can do this, they (US, Afghanistan) also should, in Afghanistan. Now, we are fencing (our border with Afghanistan) to secure ourselves from cross-border terrorism. We have been doing enough on our part for a peaceful Pakistan, in our own national interest. They better do their best to bring peace in Afghanistan.”
On the US aid cut to Pakistan, Abbasi said Pakistan has fought the war on terror on its own expenses.
“Their money was the reimbursement of our expenses. If the US does not want us to help, we won’t — and we won’t take their money.”
Abbasi said Pakistan wanted peace with India and was ready to offer cooperation at any forum.
“But the real issue is Kashmir, unless this is not resolved, the prospects for peace in the region would remain to be a far cry.”
He said India’s own reports negate the allegations of infiltration through the Line of Control.
“If they rely on their own reports, they would not be blaming us for the cross-LoC movement. India should take steps against sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan.”
On the political situation in Pakistan, the prime minister said the general elections would be held in July and National Assembly would not be dissolved for ‘not even a second’ before the completion of the federal government’s tenure in June.
“If my party asks me to dissolve the assembly, I will. Or else, if opposition has the courage to bring a no-confidence motion against me, they should.”
Abbasi once again put weight behind PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif. “I may be the prime minister of the people of Pakistan but not to forget that I voted for Nawaz Sharif to become prime minister in 2013. He is my PM.”
The PM stood by his remarks made a day earlier that “everyone suffers when a weak person is appointed as judge”.
“It’s not for the judges to speak. They speak through their decisions. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was hanged. He can’t return. But have the people of Pakistan accepted that decision? No. And the people haven’t accepted the Supreme Court’s July 28 judgment to disqualify Nawaz Sharif. Globally, who appoints judges? Who determines their salaries? Who screens them before appointment? This should be done here—and it should also be determined whether the judges are even the basic taxpayers. ”
Taking a jibe at former federal government of Pakistan People’s Party, Abbasi said the PPP gave the nation rampant corruption, unending power outages, gas shortage, terrorism, violence in Karachi, poor governance and mega scandals while the PML-N government has given the public CPEC (the China Pakistan Economic Corridor), 10,400 megawatts of electricity and 17,000 kilometres motorway, Gwadar’s development and other ‘gifts’.
He said there was no progress in Gwadar before the arrival of the PML-N government.
“Musharraf kept selling plots. There were nameplates of six PM’s in Gwadar but nil progress. There weren’t even cranes and machinery to do the related infrastructure work. Now, you go there and see the progress.”
Abbasi said he favoured the privatisation of Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) which was causing the national kitty a daily loss of Rs150 million.
New Islamabad International Airport (NIIA) would be ready by March this year and its operations and management need to be outsourced because the Civil Aviation Authority lacks the “capacity to run such an advanced international airport,” he added.
The prime minister was in a pleasant mood during the meeting with journalists on Tuesday.
In a lighter vein, he said that the media and the judiciary were not independent in Pakistan.
“You guys have sent an elected PM packing and yet you are not independent?” Abbasi asked journalists on a lighter note while responding to a query, referring to the media hype surrounding the Panamagate case proceedings in the Supreme Court.
Asked whether he was on social media, Abbasi said, “No. I live in Stone Age. I am not on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp or any such application.”
(With additional input from Reuters)