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January 2, 2018

Hale summoned to protest Trump’s Twitter tirade

Top Story

January 2, 2018

WASHINGTON: In his first tweet of 2018, US President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to cut off Pakistan’s aid over what he claimed its "lies and deceit" in offering "safe haven to terrorists."

Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi will chair a meeting of the federal cabinet on Tuesday to deliberate on President Trump’s criticism of Pakistan neglecting its cooperation and sacrifices in the war on terrorism. He will also chair a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) the following day.

The NSC meeting would be attended by foreign minister, interior minister, minister for defence, services chiefs, and senior civil and military officers, the PM Office media wing said in a press release.

The Foreign Office also summoned US Ambassador David Hale to convey Pakistan’s strong rejection of President Trump's accusations. "The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools," Trump said as the New Year kicked off. "They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!" It was unclear what inspired him to tweet about Pakistan first thing in the morning, but it was certainly evident the relationship between the two countries has hit a new low.

A few days earlier the US media had hinted that the Trump administration might cut off aid to Pakistan because of their frustration with the country over its handling of terrorists. The ties between the two allies have been under stress for quite some time but never has any US president accused Pakistan directly using such words. The presidential blame-game started when Trump announced his South Asia policy in August last year. He accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to agents of chaos, violence, and terror, and that his administration would change its approach towards the region. To avoid a complete breakdown in the relationship, top US officials have visited Pakistan and recognised its sacrifices.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and later Gen. James Mattis emphasised the vital role that Pakistan can play about Pakistan's positive attitude towards the US.

"This is a very positive moment for our country's relationship with Pakistan," he had said, adding that the country was starting to respect the United States. A couple of weeks ago, Vice President Mike Pence told his audience in Kabul that the Trump administration had put Pakistan on notice to end its support for Taliban insurgents.

Meanwhile, responding to Trump´s tweet, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told Geo TV, "The United States should hold its own people accountable for its failures in Afghanistan." He said all funds from the US had been "properly audited" and that "services (were) rendered.

“Pakistan is ready to publicly provide every detail of the US aid that it has received,” Asif said. “We have already told the US that we will not do more, so Trump’s ‘no more’ does not hold any importance,” Asif said.

“Our land, roads, rail and, other different kinds of services were used for which we were reimbursed. A proper audit took place for the reimbursements,” he said. "We are not meant for safeguarding interests of any other state; our priority is Pakistan's betterment," he said.

"If our interests differ with them, we will not become their allies," he said. "This sort of dictation is not acceptable at all," Asif said. “Trump is disappointed at the US defeat in Afghanistan and that is the only reason he is flinging accusations at Pakistan,” he added.

“They [US] are reinforcing their failure in Afghanistan by extending their military presence but only a peaceful solution is possible,” he said. “It [US] should, instead, try to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan.”

He further said only Afghanistan’s neighbours could find a peaceful solution for regional peace and security. When asked about the government's stance if the US conducted drone attacks in settled areas of the country, the foreign minister said the country will defend its sovereignty.

The federal minister also emphasised that Pakistan's foreign policy was only focused on national interest. Asif said: “Pakistan does not want aid, whether the United States blocks it or not. Trump can ask his administration as to why were funds given to Pakistan."

The minister reassured that his government would safeguard the interests of Pakistan and whatever decisions it made would be in line with the country's interests. Soon after the US president took to twitter to make serious accusations against Pakistan, Asif said he would let the world know the truth.

He further said there was a difference between facts and fiction. The foreign minister also called on Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The meeting held a detailed review of Trump's statement besides discussing the country’s foreign policy.

Political leadership reacts

Meanwhile, Trump’s uncalled-for criticism of Pakistan evoked a strong reaction from the political leadership. PPP Senator Sherry Rehman said the US was making Pakistan a target of its confusion and uncertainty.

In a tweet, she said the CSF had never been counted as aid in Pakistan, nor will it be seen as part of assistance given by the US. "It was compensation on expenses incurred regarding the joint action on the border."

She also advised the current leadership to talk directly with the US and refrain from engaging in a war of words. PTI leader Asad Umer said the world's strongest military force had nothing to show in its 16-year-long presence in Afghanistan but failure and is incapable even of a graceful exit.

He praised the Pakistani armed forces for carrying out a highly successful anti-terrorist operation and asked Trump to stop blaming Pakistan for its failure in Afghanistan. PTI's Shireen Mazari was also vocal in her criticism and referred to Trump and the US as shameless.

She said Pakistan had sacrificed its soldiers and citizens in a "war which we should never have done". She told the US to keep its money and advised that the government should immediately stop giving US ground and air lines of communication.

“Pakistan should account for the number of US diplomats and citizens in Pakistan, including those working for NGOs, and send the excessive numbers back. Enough is enough! We have been humiliated enough," she said.

Another PTI leader, Arif Alvi, said the US president had degraded the people of Pakistan and forgot that the people of Pakistan had suffered due to US policies in the region. He said Pakistan had suffered more casualties, both civilian and military, to fight terror being "ignited by Jerusalem like decisions. He said Pakistan had suffered more than $100 billion in losses.

Awami Muslim League (AML) chief Sheikh Rashid said the US does not know how to be a friend with another country.

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