ISLAMABAD - Taking an exception to a provocative statement from President Donald Trump, Pakistan yesterday summoned US Ambassador David Hale to lodge a protest and made it clear the country was not prepared to take dictation from anyone anymore.

Officials at the Foreign Office said the US envoy was summoned to complain against Trump’s tweet occasioned on New Year in which he attacked Pakistan and threatened to cut country’s aid.

Hours earlier, Trump said: “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 and deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

Before Hale was summoned, Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif said Trump’s mantra of ‘no more’ [leniency and assistance to Pakistan] was worthless as Islamabad had already conveyed to Washington to be logical in expectations.

He said the US must be aware that Pakistan was ‘no more’ prepared to work under US directions [dictation].

“Pakistan has already refused to ‘do more’ for the US. This has been conveyed to the US, so Trump’s ‘no more’ does not hold any importance,” the minister said.

Pakistan Army also came up with a strong response, with its spokesperson saying won’t serve others interests; rather it will work for protecting and pursuing its own national interest.

In a statement, ISPR DG Maj-Gen Asif Ghafoor wonder what kind of friend the US was as it was issue threats to an ally country.

Most of the politicians also strongly reacted to Trump’s tweet and they appeared united in rejecting the provocative statement.

Some of them advised using diplomatic channels to reach out to other world powers for making the US understand the real situation in the region.

Prime Minister Abbasi summoned a meeting of federal cabinet today to discuss the Pak-US tension among other issues. He also called a meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC) for tomorrow (Wednesday), after the foreign minister called on him immediately after Trump’s controversial rather threatening tweet.

Khawaja Asif in his response said Pakistan was ready to publicly share details of the US aid that it had received over the years.

He said in a television programme that the US should stop holding Pakistan responsible for its defeat in Afghanistan.

“Donald Trump seems disappointed at the US defeat in Afghanistan. This is the only reason he is attacking Pakistan.

“Washington should stop using force and must negotiate with Taliban (to achieve the desired results).”

Earlier, the foreign minister responded to Trump’s tweet almost instantly by tweeting: “We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly. Will let the world know the truth… difference between facts and fiction.”

Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Marriyum Aurangzeb followed Asif’s line by saying the US should not put the blame for its failure in Afghanistan on Pakistan.

In an interview with Radio Pakistan, she said Pakistan has rendered unmatched sacrifices in the war against terrorism.

She clarified that the record was available for all the aid Pakistan has so far received from the US, adding that “sensitive issues should not be discussed through tweets”.

The state minister invited all political parties to get united on the issue of national security.

 

 

 

Reaction of politicians

Some political observers and politicians were almost furious and wanted the government to formulate a strong reply to the provocative Trump statement.

Some others however, expressing concern on the consistency of harsh statements being issued by different US officials against Pakistan for past several months, advised caution. They said Pakistan should respond to US allegations with a clearer and much stronger narrative.

Pakistan People’s Party Vice President Senator Sherry Rehman said that the US was targeting Pakistan for its own ‘confusion and uncertainty.’

She pointed to the gaps in Pakistan’s foreign policy, saying that it was the foremost reason Pakistan was in a difficult situation internationally.

Due to the lack of a dedicated lobbyist in the US and a foreign minister, Pakistan had left the ground completely for four years, said Sherry, who has been Pakistan’s ambassador the US.

“The gaps should be filled. The world can see the lack of governance and is taking advantage of how Pakistan has not responded.”

Sherry urged the government to talk directly with the US instead of engaging in a war of words, cautioning that Pakistan needs to have a balanced stance and neither be too aggressive nor too defensive in the engagement with the US.

About the US assistance to Pakistan, she said, “Coalition support funds have never been counted as aid in any accounting by Pakistan, nor will it be seen as part of assistance. It was compensation on expenses incurred re joint action on border.”

She added: “Other aid we should indeed talk about, because Pakistan never charged for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation traffic.”

Reacting to Trump’s tweet, former foreign minister and PTI Vice Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, “Pakistan has to move forward taking into account its own interests, irrespective of whether it gets US aid or not.”

He held that Pakistan needs to look to regional powers like China, Iran, Turkey and even the European Union who understand regional situation and Pakistan’s position much better. Although Pakistan has presented its narrative time and again, there is a lot of room for its improvement, Qureshi added.

PTI leader Asad Umer said since the US was talking about building walls “how about building one across the Pak-Afghan border so that we end your excuse of cross-border movements as reason for US failure and stop Afghanistan based terrorists’ activity against Pakistan.”

As far as dollars are concerned, he said, “It is Pakistan which has been stupid and incurred massive losses to the economy and still allowed the US to boast about so called aid which does not cover even half the losses incurred. One thing we agree on is ‘no more’.”

 

 

Tillerson’s take

Last week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who visited Pakistan in October, said Islamabad “must demonstrate its desire to partner with us.”

In an article published in the New York Times, he wrote: “That country (Afghanistan) cannot become a safe haven for terrorists, as it was in the days before the September 11 attacks. Pakistan must contribute by combating terrorist groups on its own soil.”

Tillerson however said his country was prepared to work with Pakistan to defeat terrorist organisations.

Pakistan’s military says it had already done enough and it was the US and Afghanistan’s turn to ‘do more.’

Military spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor said last week: “Pakistan has twice fought an imposed and imported war inside Pakistan. We have sacrificed. We have paid a huge price. Pakistan has done enough and we cannot do any more for others.”

The strong reaction from Pakistan army came after US Vice President told US troops at Bagram Air Base this month that President Trump had ‘put Pakistan on notice’.

He claimed Pakistan had ‘much to lose’ if it continues to ‘harbour criminals.’ Pence had asked Pakistan to stop offering ‘safe havens’ to Taliban factions and militants.

The Foreign Office also responded sharply to Pence saying allies do not put each other on notice.

The foreign ministry said Pence’s statement was at “variance with the extensive conversations we have had with the US administration.”

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan was struggling to find common ground with the US.

Last month, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif had asked the US to learn from the experiences of Pakistan in war against terrorism. He said failure in Afghan war was the reason of frustration for the US.

There were also reports that Pakistan was set to take over the assets and charities linked to Jamatud Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. Officials however, said the government was not taking this action against the JuD under the US pressure.

 

 

Trump’s ‘no more’ tantrum trumped

 

SHAFQAT ALI