Pakistan willing to ‘go an extra mile’

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan on Monday told the United States that it was willing to ‘go the extra mile’ to save the alliance with Washington but will not compromise on its integrity.

US Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council, Senior Director for South and Central, Asia Lisa Curtis held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua in Islamabad. The two discussed the overall Pak-US ties and the Afghanistan issue, officials at the foreign ministry said.

Foreign office spokesperson Dr Mohammed Faisal tweeted: “FS meets Ms Lisa Curtis the Senior Director for South and Central Asia at the NSC of US, at MOFA this morning.”

A senior official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that the US urged Pakistan to ‘cooperate’ with it to resolve the Afghan issue and bring peace in the war-torn country.

“We (Pakistan) told them we are already doing whatever we can. We want peace in Afghanistan in our own interest,” he said.

The official said that Pakistan reiterated its commitment to the alliance with the US but warned the US must not take Pakistan ‘for granted.’

“Pakistan cannot concentrate on its job when the US continues to accuse it of sheltering terrorists. We have sacrificed more than any other country in the war on terror,” the official said, citing the meeting.

Last month, the US said that it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert had said that the US was suspending ‘security assistance only’ to Pakistan. She clarified that Pakistan will be able to receive the suspended funding if it took ‘decisive actions’ against the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.

Later, Pakistan said it had handed over 27 members of Taliban and the Haqqani Network to Afghanistan last year. Kabul disputed the claim saying they were only ‘ordinary prisoners’.

Pakistan also said it was not dependent on the US aid for its war on terror. The foreign ministry said Pakistan had fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources “which has cost over $120 billion in the last 15 years”.

Pakistan argued the money it had received from the US was mainly reimbursements for supporting US-led coalition forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

At the start of 2018, US President Donald Trump had tweeted: “They (Pakistan) give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

Pakistan estimated receiving at least $ 1.5 billion under the CSF during 2017-18. The US only disbursed $ 550 million during the last fiscal year ending July despite committing $ 880 million. Trump claimed to give Pakistan $ 33 billion in aid. The US had sanctioned $ 33.4 billion for reimbursements to Pakistan during the past 15 years, 44% of which was on account of anti-terror services.

This month, the Financial Action Task Force discussed a US resolution to place Pakistan on the terrorist financing watch-list. The FATF’s official statement after the meeting did not mention Pakistan but it could still be included in the watch-list in June this year. The FATF is a global body that combats terrorist financing and money laundering. The 37 permanent members of FATF include Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Denmark, European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Gulf Co-operation Council, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russian Federation, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom and the US while Israel and Saudi Arabia have the observer status.

Dr Faisal said that Pakistan had agreed to implement the FAFT’s action plan. Placement on the watch-list will be a blow to both Pakistan’s economy and its strained relations with the US. Only Turkey is confirmed to have opposed the US-sponsored resolution in the Paris meeting.

Another official said Janjua briefed Lisa Curtis over the steps taken by Pakistan to repatriate the Afghan refugees who were hosted by Pakistan for decades.

“The US help was sought for the safe return of the refugees to Afghanistan. Pakistan made it clear that the US cannot ignore Pakistan in the region. Washington was asked to acknowledge Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war on terror,” he said.

Meanwhile, diplomatic sources said that Pakistan had asked Saudi Arabia to help Islamabad in defusing tension with Washington. Sources told The Nation that Riyadh had promised to help. “Saudi Arabia is a mutual friend so we have contacted them to support our efforts to improve the ties (with the US),” said one official.

He said Pakistan had also discussed the US decision to shift its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. “We considered options to stop the US move. All the Muslim-majority countries will be contacted in this regard,” he said.

Pakistan is already making efforts to call an emergency session of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and the United Nations General Assembly to stop the US from moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

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