NEW YORK  - Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has said that whoever calls the Haqqani network ‘an asset for Pakistan’ did not represent the Pakistani government.She further said that Army Chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani did not hold such opinions in the present circumstances.The foreign minister was addressing a discussion titled “Pakistan’s Democratic Journey” held by Asia Society, a renowned think-tank, in New York on Tuesday evening. The discussion was moderated by a political columnist of Time, a weekly magazine in the United States.The moderator asked Khar about an interview given by General Kayani to the New York Times four years ago in which he allegedly stated that he considered the Haqqani network an “asset” for Pakistan.In response, Khar she did not know who had said it, adding that whoever calls the Haqqani network an asset to Pakistan could not be a representative of the Pakistani government. Hina Rabbani Khar also hit out at strident comments by Indian politicians over the incidents, and warned against “upping the ante” between the nuclear-armed neighbours. “We see warmongering,” Khar said at the Asia Society in New York late Tuesday. “It is deeply disturbing to hear statements which are upping the ante, where one politician is competing with the other to give a more hostile statement.”“The doors to dialogue are open,” she said. “We need to meet at any level, I think we need to call each other, we need to become mature countries which know how to handle their truth.” Khar again denied Indian accusations that Pakistani forces had beheaded one of the two soldiers and said an inquiry had found “no evidence” of the deaths. “I thought war-mongering was a thing of yesteryears and we had put it behind us,” Hina said. Pakistan, she said, was “deeply disappointed” with statements coming from the highest levels of the Indian government, but it would not give up on its “deep abiding commitment to pursue peace with India.” “I am happy we are not responding in kind either by word or by action,” Khar added, speaking of the reaction in Pakistan.Hina said Pakistan was the one pressing for amity and it was India that was upping the ante. “We don’t take political mileage through hostile narrative,” she said. “The doors to dialogue should remain open rather us speaking through public and the media.” “There is no question of anyone ever authorizing any beheading. It goes against our commitment to the peace process,” she said. Besides, she added, there were mechanisms and processes to look into such charges. When questions finally turned to the ongoing domestic turmoil in Pakistan, she dismissed the cleric Tahirul Qadri as a trouble-maker who was making “preposterous demands” for which he could be arrested. When asked about corruption in Pakistan, her response was to point out there was corruption in all countries, particularly in India where there had been many scams.Responding to a question by moderator Joe Klein on the Haqqani Network, Khar cited the example of FTO designation of the group where the US asked Pakistan about the listing, “We said be our guests, they are Afghan nationals.” “And please allow us to send the three million Afghan refugees, the Haqqanis being one of them, back to Afghanistan, or take responsibility, maybe to New York or Washington,” the foreign minister said, before adding that Pakistan continues to house three million Afghans.Khar said that when one of the three million people cross the border into Afghanistan where 57,000 people are crossing unchecked everyday, and attack someone, it is the Pakistani state gets blamed. She added that it was preposterous to make such allegations.The foreign minister said Pakistan has lost $72 billion in the war against terrorism and that Pakistan was fighting the war for its own existence, and as a frontline state.India’s commerce minister warned Wednesday of a possible impact on further efforts to increase cross-border trade.“Economic engagement can be enhanced in an environment of peace and stability, and anything which undermines that environment is not conducive,” Anand Sharma told reporters in New Delhi.Staff Reporter from Islamabad adds: Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has emphasised that Pakistan and India discuss all concerns related to Line of Control (LoC) at the level of Foreign Ministers in order to reinforce the ceasefire.“Instead of issuing belligerent statements by the military and political leaders from across the border and ratcheting up tension, it is advisable for the two countries to discuss all concerns related to Line of Control (LoC) with a view to reinforcing respect for the ceasefire, may be at the level of the Foreign Ministers to sort out things”, she said in a statement issued by Foreign Office on Wednesday. She said that Pakistan and India are both important countries of South Asia; therefore, it is imperative that they demonstrate requisite responsibility for ensuring peace by addressing all concerns through dialogue. Rhetoric and ratcheting up of tensions is certainly counter-productive and was not at all in the interest of peace and stability in the region, she added. “We are saddened and disappointed at the continued negative statements emanating from India both from the media as well as certain Indian leaders. For its part, Pakistan has observed a measured and deliberate self-restraint in our public statements on India. This has been done keeping in view the interest of peace in the region”, Hina added.She said: “We have invested hugely in the dialogue process and have worked energetically to keep the dialogue process moving forward in a sustained and constructive manner. Pakistan has gone out of the way to build constructive relationship with India”.

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 17-Jan-2013 here.