Pakistan on Wednesday shared its deep concerns with the United States over the use of Afghan soil by the banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and the role of India behind the recent terrorist attack, targeting the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi.
The concerns were conveyed to the US President’s pointman on Afghan peace Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who visited Islamabad as part of ongoing efforts to advance the peace process in the neighbouring country.
His visit came just days after four terrorist, belonging to BLA tried to storm the Pakistan Stock Exchange (PSX) building. They were gunned down by the security forces before they could achieve their objectives.
The BLA was quick to take the responsibility while preliminary investigations suggested that terrorists were in touch with their handlers in Afghanistan.
Although, official readout did not say, sources revealed that in his meeting with Khalilzad, Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi did raise the issue of “safe havens” of BLA in Afghanistan as well as the role of India in orchestrating the terrorist attack.
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Tuesday told the National Assembly that he had “no doubt” that India was behind the attack on the PSX. It is believed that the Pakistani side during meeting with Khalilzad called for decisive action against the BLA “sanctuaries.”
The sources said that even before the Karachi attack, Islamabad had been talking to the US and Afghanistan about the presence of such elements seeking destablisation of Pakistan. Islamabad is particularly concerned that ungoverened spaces in Afghanistan being used by hostile agencies, including India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) to create trouble for Pakistan.
A statement issued by the Foreign Office said that Ambassador Khalilzad expressed condolences on the loss of lives in the terrorists attack on the Pakistan Stock Exchange in Karachi and extended US support.
“The foreign minister praised the bravery of the security personnel and thanked Ambassador Khalilzad for the support against this terrorist attack, which was externally supported,” the statement said.
Khalilzad’s visit to Pakistan is part of his regular engagement for consultations and exchange of views on the Afghan peace and reconciliation process. The foreign minister highlighted Pakistan’s positive contribution to the US-Taliban direct talks culminating in the Peace Agreement of 29 February 2020
The foreign minister stressed that the Afghan leaders should seize this historic opportunity and work together to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive political settlement.
Reiterating that a peaceful and stable Afghanistan was important for peace and stability in the region and beyond, Qureshi welcomed the latest developments, including announcements on formation of negotiating team and establishment of High Council of National Reconciliation.
He expressed the hope that release of prisoners would be completed soon to pave the way for the earliest commencement of Intra-Afghan negotiations. He urged that all sides should make earnest efforts for reduction in violence. He also emphasised that it was important to not let the spoilers undermine or derail the process of intra-Afghan negotiations.
Noting the 40 years of hospitality extended by Pakistan to the Afghan refugees, the foreign minister underlined the role of the international community for a time-bound and well-resourced roadmap for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour.
Qureshi reiterated Pakistan’s commitment to continue working with regional and international partners to support efforts for a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan. He added that Pakistan remained ready to engage in endeavours to facilitate closer Pakistan-Afghanistan economic partnership and regional connectivity projects.
The foreign minister conveyed Pakistan’s disappointment that the recently released US State Department’s Country Report on Terrorism 2019 was not factual and it failed to recognise Pakistan’s serious efforts and achievements in the fight against the scourge of terrorism.
It was underlined that the spirit and trajectory of the Pakistan-US relations warranted a positive approach—with better understanding and recognition of Pakistan’s concrete contribution to counter-terrorism.
Foreign Secretary Sohail Mahmood, Special Representative for Afghanistan Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq, and other senior officials were also present in the meeting.