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October 6, 2017

US can’t make Pakistan scapegoat for Afghan failures: FO

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October 6, 2017

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif and senior officials from the Foreign Office and ISPR have rejected outright allegations by the US General Joseph Dunford that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) supports terrorist groups.

They have pointed out that Pakistan has done enough to erase the footprints of terrorism on its soil through indiscriminate counterterror (CT) operations against all terrorist outfits.

“Pakistan has pursued zero tolerance and indiscriminate approach in its campaign against all terrorist and militant groups,” Khawaja Asif stated while on a visit to Washington.

The Foreign Office on Thursday told a regular media briefing here that the US government and army cannot make Pakistan a scapegoat for its failures in Afghanistan.

Speaking on Thursday, DG ISPR Maj. Gen Asif Ghafoor said: “Having links is different from supporting. Name any intelligence agency which does not have links. Links can be positive, and (Dunford) did not say there was support (from the ISI).”

Pakistan was responding to remarks by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford who told the US Senate Armed Services Committee, “It is clear to me that the ISI has connections with terrorist groups.”

The FO spokesman said Gen Dunford’s statement was “baseless”, and simply trying to shift the blame to Pakistan, while pointing to a 2009 statement from Hillary Clinton in which she said: “The people (Taliban) we are fighting today, we (the US) funded 20 years ago, to beat Soviet Union…Let’s be careful about what we sow because we will harvest. We abandoned Pakistan and they had to deal with these elements (Taliban)”.

Remarks from Pakistan come at a time when Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif is currently undertaking his first visit to the US at the invitation of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and will meet NSA General McMaster.

“The visit is of high significance, as it will pave way for a better understanding and cooperation between the two countries”, the spokesman said.

To another query, the spokesman said Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operations were without discrimination and it had succeeded in erasing the footprint of terrorists from the country.

“There are no safe havens in Pakistan. The sanctuaries people talk about are located in the ungoverned spaces of Afghanistan. In the wake of President Trump’s policy review on Afghanistan and South Asia, Pakistan, at the highest level, has clearly underlined that it should not be made a scapegoat for failures in Afghanistan,” the spokesman reiterated.

Asked to comment on a remark by US Secretary Rex Tillerson about his worry about the future of government in Pakistan, the spokesman responded, “I have also heard Secretary Rex Tillerson’s statement. He said the US finds Pakistan a reliable partner, and would like to have a cooperative relationship with Pakistan. His statement about future of Pakistani government was in the context of situation and the threat of terrorism in the region. You all know where this threat is emanating from – ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan. Secretary Tillerson conveyed that the US policy focus is on Afghanistan and the region and that they see Pakistan’s role as crucial in the context”.

The spokesman also pointed out to the increase in the presence of Daesh inside Afghanistan and future threats.

“We have serious concerns about growing presence of Daesh in Afghanistan. Its expansion has also raised concerns among other countries in this region and the need to address this menace”, he said.

While international organizations, observers and humanitarian workers find ways and means to visit areas where disputes are occurring all over the globe, India continues to deny access to any humanitarian organization to visit Held Kashmir for fact-finding missions.

“UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, OIC IPHRC, OIC Contact Group on Kashmir, parliamentarians of many countries and human rights defenders have demanded sending an independent fact-finding mission to the IHK. But India remains defiant. The OIC IPHRC delegation visited AJK just in March this year,” the spokesman commented.

He added that it was time for the international community to put words to action and ensure respect for the HR Charter, especially in the IHK where Indian atrocities were well-documented.

A very recent example is Amnesty International’s 112-page report on one aspect of miseries faced by pellet guns victims in the IHK; many other aspects are covered in detail in other reports.

“The High Commissioner for Human Rights has reiterated his dismay and concern over the grave human rights situation in Kashmir in his recent oral report to the Human Rights Council. He has again expressed the desire to monitor the worrying developments in the Indian Held Kashmir”, said the spokesman.

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