Pakistan will ask Afghanistan to check intrusions into its border territories by the Taliban allegedly based in Kunar and Nuristan provinces when top diplomatic officials from both sides open a fresh round of strategic talks today.
The meeting is taking place at a time when anger is mounting in Islamabad against Kabul’s ‘inability or unwillingness’ to control groups of Pakistani Taliban based in Afghanistan from carrying out attacks on border check posts. Incidentally, Washington has accused Islamabad of showing similar reluctance to control the Haqqani network and its alleged attacks on international troops in Afghanistan.
On Thursday, Islamabad reacted sharply to fresh US allegations that it was reluctant to go after the Haqqani network, warning that such claims could undermine anti-terror cooperation between the two countries.
Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said that the cause of anti-terrorism would be weakened by levelling allegations against Pakistan for this week’s attack on the US embassy in Kabul. The remarks came after US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta warned of unilateral action against the deadliest Afghan militant group believed to be based in the North Waziristan Agency.
“These remarks are not in line with the cooperation the two countries have in counter-terrorism,” said Janjua at her weekly briefing in a carefully-worded response to Panetta’s statement.
Last month, Pakistan sent a number of regular troops to man the border with Afghanistan in remote Dir and Chitral districts after the Taliban led by Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, a fugitive commander from Bajaur tribal region, launched multiple attacks there from across the border.
US officials have held militants from the Haqqani network responsible for a 20-hour long assault on the embassy in Kabul. “Time and again we’ve urged the Pakistanis to exercise their influence over these kinds of attacks from the Haqqanis, and we have made very little progress in that area,” Panetta told reporters flying with him to San Francisco on Wednesday.
“I think the message they need to know is: we’re going to do everything we can to defend our forces.” But the Foreign Office spokesperson rejected the criticism, saying “terrorism and militancy are complex issues.”
Janjua insisted that Pakistan’s cooperation with the US was based on respect for its sovereignty, warning that any unilateral move could damage relationship. “Pakistan’s cooperation is premised on respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty and entails joint actions,” she added.
The ‘other side’
In an attempt to deflect US pressure, the Foreign Office countered by raising concerns on the cross border raids allegedly led by Pakistani militants from Afghanistan where they are believed to have established ‘safe havens.’
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2011.