Pakistan struggles to thwart US advances

ISLAMABAD –  Pakistan is struggling to thwart US advances amid speculations that Washington could unilaterally decide to take direct action against the alleged militants’ hideouts on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border, diplomatic sources said.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Pakistan was making efforts to stop the US from hurting Pakistan’s sovereignty.

One official said: “They are very assertive and hardly ready to listen [to our point of view]. This is a very delicate situation. We are trying to placate them.”

He added: “Pakistan of course will not allow the US military to land inside Pakistan and take action [against the militants] but at the same time we cannot afford to lock horns with the sole global power.”

Another official said Pakistan was prepared to “cooperate” with the US except the joint operation proposal.

“Their [the US] tone is threatening but we still hope good sense will prevail. The civil and the military leadership are not ready to tolerate direct US action inside Pakistan. We are hoping the US will not impose it, and if they do, we will decide the future line of action. We have faced drone attacks in the tribal areas but the possible landing of US forces will be a real test of our patience. Every effort is being made to avoid this situation,” he maintained.

This week, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said his country was prepared to work with Pakistan to defeat terrorist organisations.

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.”

The secretary of state, who visited Pakistan in October, said Pakistan “must demonstrate its desire to partner with us.”

Pakistan’s military said it had already done enough and it was the US and Afghanistan’s turn to “do more”.

Military spokesperson Major-General Asif Ghafoor said: “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.”

He said if Pakistan had not done enough, al-Qaeda could not have been defeated.

This month, the US Vice President, Mike Pence, told the US troops in Bagram Air Base that US President Donald Trump had “put Pakistan on notice”.

He claimed Pakistan had “much to lose”, if it continues to “harbour criminals”.

Pence said Pakistan must stop offering “safe havens” to Taliban factions and militants.

He alleged Pakistan had provided “safe haven to the Taliban” and other terrorist groups “too often”.

The Foreign Office responded sharply 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 amid tension.

“We are in talks and are trying to find common ground. We have not lost hope. However, [if all efforts fail] we can look for other options [like creating a new bloc led by Russia and China],” he said.

This month, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif also asked the US to learn from the experiences of Pakistan in war against terrorism.

The foreign minister said that the frustration of the US could be clearly seen through statements at the United Nations General Assembly session, adding that the failure in Afghan war was the reason of frustration.

Former interior minister Senator Rehman Malik said the money Pakistan received from the US was reimbursement for the support Pakistan provided to the coalition for its fight against al-Qaeda.

“It is not aid but committed coalition support fund, which has been blocked many times by the US,” he said.

The lawmaker said it was Pakistan’s active support against all odds and 75,000 casualties in the US-led war on terror that led to victory against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan is still hosting millions of Afghan refugees, which is a direct burden. We should not ignore the unholy alliance of India and Afghanistan intelligence agencies. The anti-terror war needs a united effort not confrontation. The US must acknowledge our efforts,” he remarked.

International Affairs expert Huma Baqai said the Pakistani nation would not accept the US troops inside Pakistan.

“They should provide us technology and money, if they want us to go further. We are working according to our resources but have still won the war on terror. Pakistan is the only country that has defeated terrorists,” she added.

Baqai said the US should come out of India’s influence and support Pakistan’s sincere efforts to curb terrorism.



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