ISLAMABAD -  Pakistan on Friday said the United States’ financial assistance to Pakistan was “not a yardstick to measure” Pak-US ties.

Addressing a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal said Pakistan looked forward to develop a strong relationship with the US.

“We look forward to developing mutually-beneficial economic partnerships with all countries, including the United States and do not consider assistance a yardstick for measuring our longstanding relationship,” he said.

Faisal said Pakistan wished to have a strong relationship with the US “based on mutual respect and underpinned by bonds of friendship between our two peoples.”

Pakistan's foreign policy, he said, reflected the aspirations of the people of Pakistan and served Pakistan's national interests.

Faisal said some elements in the US administration were trying to scapegoat Pakistan for the failures in Afghanistan.

“Our position is clear that Pakistan will take action against any terrorist found on its soil, if actionable intelligence is provided,” the spokesperson said. 

Regarding, the US Treasury Department listing, he said, the US Department of Treasury has recently designated six alleged Taliban or Haqqani Network individuals under an Executive Order 13224, which bars the US nationals from providing any financial or material support to these individuals.  

“This is an administrative step taken by the US government and is applicable upon the US subjects. It is not a UN sanctions measure. Since those so designated are not Pakistani nationals, we have no comments to offer,” Faisal said.

Regarding Radio Mashaal, he said, the decision to close the office of Mashaal Radio was taken by the Interior Ministry after it was found that the office of Mashaal Radio was being run without the mandatory licensing required under the applicable laws.

“Mashaal Radio website/broadcast remains functional. The US side has also been duly apprised of this decision,” he said.

To a question, Faisal said Pakistan had raised concerns on the new global travel advisory introduced by the State Department. 

About Pakistan $123 billion loss in war against Terrorism, he said the amount was the overall loss to Pakistan’s economy.

Faisal said there were no safe havens for terrorists in Pakistan.

He said Pakistan continued to share intelligence with more than 70 countries.

“Pakistan continues to push any suspected Taliban or Haqqani network elements to prevent them from using our soil for any terrorist activity in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson added.

In this context, Faisal said, 27 individuals suspected of belonging to Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the Haqqani network had been handed over to Afghanistan in November 2017.

Faisal said Pakistan had sacrificed 75,000 civilians and 6,000 soldiers to the scourge of terrorism and suffered economic losses worth $123 billion.

“Large swathes of ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan are leaving a vacuum for safe havens and terrorist sanctuaries to flourish and launch attacks on Pakistan. Incidence of cross-border terrorist attacks from Afghanistan has increased since 2016, and peaked to 417 in 2017,” he said.

Another example of Pakistan’s sincere counter-terrorism efforts, Faisal said, was Paigham-e-Pakistan – the official fatwa (decree) that completely prohibits terrorism and declares it contrary to the teachings of Islam.

Faisal said Pakistan believed that the true enemy of Afghan people was the endless cycle of violence.

“This conclusion is informed by our four decades' experience of facing blowback of instability in Afghanistan. That is why we have consistently highlighted that there is no military path to peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

The spokesperson said the goal of peace and stability in Afghanistan could be best achieved through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process.

“It is time for [the] international community to remember the plight of millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, who have been displaced from their homes due to decades of violence. They must return to their homes honourably. More violence in Afghanistan will only delay their dream of uniting with their loved ones,” he maintained.

Faisal said Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua would lead a Pakistani delegation to Afghanistan on February 3 (today) to discuss tension with the neighbouring country.

The spokesperson said the first meeting of Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Working Groups would be held in Kabul.

He said Pakistan had proposed five joint working groups, which focused on ensuring comprehensive engagement for countering terrorism, intelligence sharing, military, economy, trade and transit interaction, refugee repatriation and connectivity.

“We believe in Afghan-owned peace. In this regard, we welcome the peace deal with Hizb-e-Islami and believe that it can serve as a model for future peace talks,” Faisal added.

The spokesperson said Pakistan had extended the stay of Afghan refugees for another two months.

“It is estimated that Pakistan is currently hosting around 2.7 million Afghans. This includes 1.3 million registered Afghan refugees, while the remaining are unregistered Afghans,” he elaborated.

To a question, Faisal said Kashmir dispute was an internationally-recognised dispute pending resolution due to Indian belligerence.

“The Kashmiris continue to struggle and pay in blood and treasure against intensified Indian atrocities and violation of their basic human rights by Indian occupation forces,” he said.

Faisal said as a state with advanced capabilities, Pakistan maintained constant engagement with all the multilateral export control regimes including the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the Missile Technology Control Regime, Australia Group and the Wassennar Arrangement.

He said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi inaugurated the Gwadar Economic Free Zone on January 29.

“A number of industrial units will be setup in the Economic Zone that would generate economic and employment opportunities for the local population,” he said.

Earlier, the spokesperson gave a round-up of the diplomatic activities in the past week.

 

 

Shafqat Ali