WASHINGTON - A US State Department spokesperson brushed aside arguments that the United States’ push for the elimination of militant safe havens in Pakistan was having no effect, saying Washington was continuing to work with Islamabad on counterterrorism issues.
“These are issues where we have worked closely on with the Pakistani government, where we may have shared concerns on, including counterterrorism efforts and cooperation on that front. So it just indicates a continuing partnership with Pakistan and a commitment to working closely on these issues,” Spokesperson Jen Psaki said, while responding to questions from an Indian journalist who cited lack of progress on destroying the safe havens in Pakistan.
She was referring to Deputy Secretary of State William Burns’ statement on the conclusion of his visit to Islamabad in which he acknowledged Pakistan’s sacrifices but urged the country to curb cross-border militancy and shut down militant sanctuaries along the Pak-Afghan border.
“So we appreciate the efforts, but obviously this is an issue we’ll continue to work on,” she remarked.
Ties have improved markedly since almost collapsing in 2011 amid a series of crises including the US raid in Pakistan that killed Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden.
The US has also reduced the number of drone attacks on the unruly border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan where Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents are believed to be hiding. Islamabad has publicly denounced drone attacks as a violation of sovereignty.
The United States also called on Pakistan to investigate the killing of a lawyer shot dead for defending a university lecturer accused of blasphemy under strict laws against defaming Islam.
“We were deeply saddened by the murder of Rashid Rehman, an attorney and human rights defender in Pakistan,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.
“We encourage Pakistani authorities, as we have in similar cases in Pakistan and around the world, to swiftly investigate this crime and bring to justice those responsible.” Gunmen stormed Rehman’s office late Wednesday and started firing indiscriminately, killing him and injuring two others.