US assured of ‘no double game’

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan yesterday sought time from the United States to show better results against the terror remnants, assuring that Islamabad was not playing a ‘double-game’ with Washington.

In his meetings with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, US Defence Secretary James Mattis made it clear that his country had not ‘seen any practical change’ in Pakistan’s attitude even after exchange of several high-profile visits to raise the trust level, sources said.

Prime Minister Abbasi rejected the allegation and told Mattis that Pakistani nation was committed to eradicating all kinds of terrorism and terrorists.

According to an official statement, he also stressed the need for broadening the relationship between the two countries.

A statement from ISPR said, General Bajwa told Mattis Pakistan has already done much, while US defence secretary assured that his country was “ready” to address Pakistan’s legitimate concerns.

Officials privy to the meetings told The Nation that Mattis had a smiling face all through but raised tough questions.

“To the mother of all questions – are you with Washington or not – Pakistan told him clearly that Pakistan was with the US and wanted to continue the alliance,” said one official.

Another official said the Mattis asked Pakistan to cooperate with Afghanistan to eliminate the ‘terrorists’ safe havens’ along the porous border.

“Mattis insisted the militants were finding refuge on the Pakistan side of the border. He offered to physically help if Pakistan was not able to act alone,” the official told The Nation.

He added: “Pakistan made it clear that it was not supporting any group and wanted to completely eliminate terrorism in its own interest. Commitment to ties with Washington was also reiterated.”

Just before Mattis met the Pakistani civil and military leadership, Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo warned Pakistan that his country will do “everything we can” to eliminate the alleged safe havens of terrorists in Pakistan if Islamabad failed to act.

“In the absence of the Pakistanis achieving that (ridding their country of terror networks), we are going to do everything we can to make sure that safe-havens no longer exist,” Mike Pompeo said.

Mattis was in Pakistan for a few hours before he flew to Kuwait. The main agenda of his visit was to pressure Pakistan to act indiscriminately against the terrorists and eliminate terror networks.

Washington had long been pressing Pakistan to act against the Haqqani network. In August, US President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of protecting the ‘agents of chaos’ and warned to end the alliance if Pakistan did not show results.

Announcing his new South Asia strategy in August, Trump had said: “For its part, Pakistan often gives safe havens to agents of chaos, violence, and terror. The threat is worse because Pakistan and India are two nuclear-armed states whose tense relations threaten to spiral into conflict. And that could happen.”

The US President also said Pakistan had “much to lose” by continuing to “harbour” criminals and terrorists.

Pakistan, which strongly rejects the charges, had recently asked the US not to ‘dictate terms’ on the war on terror as it violated the country’s sovereignty.

Last week, US and Nato forces commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson alleged Pakistan had not taken steps against the terrorists to satisfy Washington.

Asked about Pakistan’s alleged ties with the Haqqani network, he said: “Well, to bookend that comment, the chairman of the joint chiefs (General Joseph Dunford) and the secretary of defence (James Mattis) were asked these questions recently. I think they affirmed that those relationships still exist. So I would leave it at that and I concur with their assessment.”

The US is also furious over the release of Jamaat-ud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed – whom the US and India accuse of masterminding the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

An official statement released here said Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi met James Mattis who was accompanied by senior officials from Department of Defence and the US ambassador to Pakistan David Hale.

Abbasi was assisted by ministers of defence, foreign affairs and interior as well as senior officials from the respective ministries, it said.

“Mattis stated that the purpose of his visit was to find common grounds in order to create a positive, consistent and long term relationship with Pakistan,” the statement said.

He emphasised that in view of his long association with Pakistan, he was keenly aware of the sacrifices rendered and the lives lost in Pakistan’s fight against terrorism and extremism; and his personal respect and appreciation for the professional abilities of Pakistan’s armed forces, it added.

General Mattis also underscored the importance of continuing and deepening cooperation for the common objective of eliminating terrorism from the region.

Recalling the longstanding relationship with the United States, Prime Minister Abbasi underlined the need for a broad based engagement to strengthen partnership and enhance cooperation between the two countries, added the statement.

Articulating Pakistan’s perspective, he noted that no other country benefits more from peace and stability in Afghanistan than Pakistan.

He agreed with Secretary Mattis that both Pakistan and the US have common stakes in securing peace and security in Afghanistan for the long term stability of the broader region.

The prime minister also appreciated the US resolve of not to allow the use of Afghan soil against Pakistan, said the statement.

Sharing highlights of the recent counter terrorism operations to improve the law and order situation, Premier Abbasi noted that Pakistan, in its national interest, would continue to conduct intelligence based operations all over the country to consolidate the gains achieved in the last four years.

He reiterated there were “no safe havens in Pakistan” and the entire nation was committed to its resolve on eradicating terrorism once and for all in all its forms and manifestations.

The US embassy in its statement said James Mattis met with Prime Minister Abbasi, Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, COAS General Qamar Javed Bajwa and Inter-Services Intelligence chief Lt-Gen Naveed Mukhtar.

It said that Secretary Mattis recognised Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism. He emphasised the vital role Pakistan can play in working with the US and others to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan.

“The Secretary reiterated that Pakistan must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country,” the statement added.

Bajwa-Mattis meeting

A statement from military’s media wing said General James Mattis called on Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa at GHQ and the meeting was focused on regional security with particular emphasis on Afghanistan.

COAS acknowledged history of US engagements with Pakistan especially the ongoing efforts for continuing the positivity for peace in the region.

He said that Pakistan has done much more than its due share despite capacity constraints but shall remain committed for peace as a responsible member of international community, the ISPR statement said.

He reiterated Pakistan’s support to peace and stability in the region and highlighted Pakistan’s concerns emanating from Indian use of Afghan soil, the necessity and right of Afghan refugees for a respectable & early repatriation and the existence of terrorist safe havens across the border in Afghanistan.

Gen Mattis expressed his respect for Pakistan Armed Forces and the effective operations undertaken against terrorists. He highlighted concern that a few elements continue to use Pakistan’s territory to further their terrorist agenda in Afghanistan, the statement said.

He assured that US is ready to play its role in addressing Pakistan’s legitimate concerns, saying that his aim is not to make demands but find common grounds to work together.

COAS appreciated the dignitary’s understanding of the underlying issues and said that Pakistan does not require anything from US but understanding. We have eliminated safe havens from Pakistan’s soil but are prepared to look into the possibility of miscreants exploiting Pakistan’s hospitality to the Afghan Refugees to the detriment of our Afghan brothers.

Both agreed to work towards specific and sustained actions on each other’s concerns.

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