ISLAMABAD - Pakistan yesterday threatened to walk away from the F-16 jets’ deal with the United States if Washington did not provide the promised funding.

Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said Pakistan could acquire jets from another country unless the US changed its mind to share the cost.

“If the US arranges funds, Pakistan will get the F-16s from them, otherwise we will opt for jets from some other place,” he said without naming the potential supplier.

His statement came hours after US State Department spokesman John Kirby said Pakistan should pay if it wanted F-16 deal to go through. For eight fighter jets worth $700 million, Pakistan had to pay $270 million and remainder $430 million of the cost was to be paid by the US.

The latest US announcement practically kills the deal as Pakistan may find it difficult to buy the planes at two and a half times more than the agreed price.

Speaking to journalists here, Aziz said Pakistan required these F-16s to combat terrorists. He said though the US had stopped funding for the fighter jets but it was providing $265 million annually to Pakistan.

He said F-16s were very effective in anti-terrorism operations but JF-17 Thunder could also be used for such campaigns.

Aziz said the funding from the US was part of normal military funding and not meant for the purchase of F-16s. He said Washington had told Islamabad, “We can use this money for purchase of other military equipment not F-16s.”

Responding to a question, he said Dr Shakeel Afridi – who helped Washington trace Osama Bin Laden - will not be handed over to the US. “We have rejected American pressure on this. He is definitely a hero for the US but for us he is just a criminal.”

The adviser said Afridi’s case was under review by a tribunal, and he was also suspected of links with terrorist outfits.

Confirming presence of a Taliban delegation from Qatar in Pakistan, the adviser said the quadrilateral coordination group was in contact with the Qatar office of Taliban for the revival of peace process in Afghanistan. “Such contacts are not new,” he added.

He also rejected Afghan demands for military action against Taliban leaders within Pakistan and emphasised the need to continue talks for a settlement.

Aziz dismissed demands by President Ashraf Ghani that Pakistan evict Taliban insurgents through military action or arrest and hand them over to Kabul for trial and punishment for killing innocent Afghans.

Aziz called Afghan outrage at Pakistan an expression of frustration because they (Afghan leaders) were expecting reconciliation talks would have started by now and led to a reduction in violence. He said it is unfortunate the Taliban have gone ahead with their spring offensive and negotiations have also not started.

He, however, also said the offensive has been unable to make significant advances. He said that if stability persists on the battlefield, it could push the Taliban to the talks with Kabul.

Aziz said Pakistan has not yet come to that stage because officials believe it is premature; but Afghanistan is pushing Pakistan to urgently examine and take action against Taliban leaders. Aziz added that Islamabad is telling Kabul the military option has been applied since 2001 but has not ended the Afghan conflict, referring to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan.

He said, “The reconciliation option cannot materialise in just two to four weeks and should be given due time because it is the only way to bring peace to Afghanistan.”

Aziz said Pakistan will continue to pursue efforts together with the United States and China for a peaceful resolution of the Afghan war.

Earlier, addressing a seminar on ‘Pakistan’s non-proliferation efforts and strategic export control system,’ Aziz said Pakistan was forced to become a nuclear state amid Indian threats.

He said Pakistan remained committed to nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament. “Pakistan was a peace-loving country but it was compelled to get nuclear deterrence in the face of growing threat to its security and integrity after Indian nuclear tests,” he added.

Aziz said Indian fleet of nuclear submarines and Cold Start doctrine poses serious threat to the region. “All these developments have compelled Pakistan to maintain minimum nuclear deterrence,” he said.

He said Pakistan’s nuclear programme was highly secure and capable to respond to all possible threats. The adviser said Pakistan was committed to nuclear security and had been proactively engaged with the international community to promote nuclear safety and security.

Aziz asked the world to check India’s growing military might, adding Pakistan will have no option but to enhance its strategic power if India continued the trend.

He said Pakistan’s command and control program is ready to face any challenge as it is according to international missile technology.

He further said that concessions given to India over nuclear missile material would result in instability and increase in usage of weapons.

The adviser said Pakistan‘s nuclear safety paradigm is dynamic and responsive against the entire range of possible threats. The adviser said Islamabad is committed to nuclear security and has been proactively engaged with the international community to promote nuclear safety and security.