Pakistan under US pressure to ‘eliminate’ Haqqani network

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan is under increased pressure from the United States to “eliminate” the Haqqani network as Afghanistan accused “Pakistan-based terrorists” of carrying out this week’s attack on a hotel in Kabul killing several people, The Nation has learnt.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the Intercontinental Hotel after the weekend strike that killed at least 22, but Afghanistan government spokesman Javid Faisal was quick to put the blame on “Pakistan-based Haqqani terrorist network”.

The Haqqani group was backed by the US in 1980s but Washington now regards the Taliban-linked group as a terror outfit.

Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua said the Haqqani network was not active inside Pakistan anymore. In fact, she said, “the enemies of Pakistan” are gaining “foothold in Afghanistan”.

Janjua said the US’ aggressive attitude was “beyond comprehension” as Pakistan had sacrificed more than any other country in the war on terror.

Earlier, the US said it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan targeting the coalition support funds. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said for now the US was suspending “security assistance only” to Pakistan. She maintained that Pakistan would be able to receive the suspended funding if it took “decisive actions” against the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.

Senior officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that there had been a series of contacts by Washington after the Kabul attack seeking action against the terrorists “hiding inside Pakistan”.

An official said Washington tried to justify its claim on Haqqani Network after the Kabul attack and insisted there were “safe havens” for the terrorists along the Pakistan side of the border with Afghanistan. “We stand with our stated position that we are not sheltering anyone. The Afghanistan allegations are baseless, especially because they [Afghanistan] did not wait for the investigations,” he said, citing telephonic talks with the counterparts in Washington.

Another official said the US was exerting more pressure on Pakistan to “act against the Haqqanis”. “Realistically, they [the US] are just acting on statements from Afghanistan,” he maintained.

The official said Pakistan had contacted Kabul and “told them we are ready to help and the allegations will not work.”

He added: “They [Afghanistan] have made a habit of accusing Pakistan-based militants of carrying each and every terrorist act in Afghanistan. This is not a logical approach. This has only added to the Pak-Afghanistan tension.”

Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal had also rejected “knee-jerk allegations” by “some Afghan circles” on the attack on Intercontinental Hotel immediately after the incident.  “There is a need for credible investigation into the attack, including a report on the security lapses,” he said in a tweet.

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