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September 28, 2017

Being American proxy in Soviet war was mistake: Pakistan

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September 28, 2017

NEW YORK: Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif has said that the United States shares the responsibility for the rise of Jihad in South Asia, adding that Islamabad’s cooperation in America’s proxy war against the Soviet Union is what brought upon the current turmoil in his country, international media reported.

During an interaction at the Asia Society forum on Wednesday, Khawaja Asif accused America of using Pakistan for its strategic objectives and then discarding it.

“Pakistan has stood very firmly with the US in the Soviet war, which was a wrong decision. It was a proxy war. We were used and discarded,” the minister said, refusing to accept the entire blame for the rise of extremism and terrorism in the region. “It is a collective sin or mistake that we made. You should not have left the way you did after the end of the Cold War,” he said, adding “we have made mistakes.”

In response to blaming Pakistan for the Haqqani network and other militant outfits, the foreign minister reminded the US that these 'terrorists' were considered the 'darlings' of the White House up until a few decades ago. He said, “Don't blame us for the Haqqanis [the Haqqani Network] and don't blame us for the Hafiz Saeeds [referring to the head of banned Jamaat-ud-Dawa]. These were the people who were your darlings just 20 to 30 years back. They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say 'go to hell Pakistanis because you are nurturing these people'."

Further clarifying Islamabad's position, Khawaja Asif said: "It is very easy to say Pakistan is floating the Haqqanis and Hafiz Saeed and Lashkar-e-Taiba. They are liabilities. I accept that they are liabilities, but give us time to get rid of them because we don't have the assets to match these liabilities and you are increasing them [our liabilities] further."

On a question regarding Hafiz Saeed, Asif said that he was already under detention. "You have mentioned a name. It's a proscribed organisation. The gentleman is under house arrest. But I agree with you that on that score, on that account, we have to do more," he said.

"There are people in Pakistan who can be a liability in times of crisis for Pakistan and for the region." The Pakistani government has placed Hafiz Saeed under house arrest, which was extended by two months in August. He was also placed on the Exit Control List along with 37 others in February, all of whom were said to be affiliated with the Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) or Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

Khawaja Asif's remarks come amid soaring tensions between Islamabad and Washington. Last month, US President Donald Trump, announcing his South Asia policy, lambasted Pakistan for providing safe havens to "agents of chaos”. Asif said that Pakistan was ready to work with the United States for effective management of the Afghan border to stop terrorist infiltration and to facilitate a peace settlement in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the forum, Asif further stressed that there was no military solution to the festering conflict in Afghanistan. “Scapegoating Pakistan for all the Afghan ills is neither fair nor accurate,” he said.

“This will only help forces that we are trying to fight collectively,” he remarked. Pakistan, he said, had in the past done all it could to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan, making sure that Pakistani soil was not used against any country.

In his opening remarks, Khawaja Asif also covered Pakistan’s relations with India, the Kashmir dispute, counter-terrorism measures and the country’s economic progress. Asif said Pakistan had a “larger stake” in seeing the return of peace and stability in Afghanistan than any other country, having suffered grievously from the conflict and instability across the border.

“We are mindful of the strong desire in the US to bring the ‘long war’ in Afghanistan to an end,” the minister said. “We support this objective wholeheartedly and are ready to help in any way we can to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he offered.

He, however, made it clear that there were obviously clear limits to what Pakistan could do. “We cannot take responsibility for Afghanistan’s peace and security and be asked to achieve what the combined strength of some of the most powerful and richest countries could not accomplish,” he told the audience.

“Effective border management, frankly, is the key,” the minister said, adding: “More needs to be done on the Afghan side of the border where terrorist elements are finding easy safe havens.”

“We are keen to work with the US in effectively managing the Afghan border and in facilitating a peace process to the extent we can." He went on to say: “The emergence of new threats, including Daesh demands ever greater coordination and stronger partnerships between like-minded countries to put up a united front to counter these dark forces of exclusion and extremism.”

Talking about Pakistan's sour relations with India, he said that a new initiative was needed to bring India and Pakistan to the negotiating table. He stressed the need to discuss all issues, including the decades-old Kashmir dispute — the main source of tension between the two countries.

"Peace in the neighbourhood is impossible to achieve unless relations with India improve," he said. "Pakistan reached out to India to seek normalisation of relations and resolution of all disputes through dialogue and engagement, but India did not reciprocate," he added.

“The unprovoked violations on the LoC [Line of Control in Kashmir] and the working boundary, escalating political rhetoric, excessive use of force against unarmed civilians in occupied Kashmir and harassment of minorities, particularly Muslims in India, do not bode well for peace, reconciliation and dialogue in South Asia,” highlighted the minister.

“Pakistan is ready to work with India to seek peaceful resolution of all disputes and to create an environment of peace and stability allowing the people of the two countries to realise their aspirations of prosperity and development,” he said.

The foreign minister said Nawaz Sharif paid a political price for peace efforts with India and was termed ‘Modi’s friend’ and ‘traitor’.

“Nawaz Sharif put his political career on take for achieving or stabilising our relation with India. He was called Modi’s friend and traitor by our political opponents in Pakistan,” he told the audience. 

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