The Foreign Office has rejected the claims of the Pentagon about the presence of Afghan Taliban leaders and the Haqqani Network using Pakistan to conduct their operations across the border in Afghanistan. The FO’s statement is valid in parts, where it addresses the issue of Afghanistan being the epicentre of the conflict, and that the leadership of both the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network no longer operate through Pakistan only. But to state that they have no presence here is not consistent with previous statements, especially considering that a senior FO official testified – at the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee – that these groups had been told to end their violent activities in Pakistan. Why are we still telling them what not to do if we have no control over them and they are not even based in the country? Something is amiss.

But the Pentagon’s constant criticism is also unwarranted. The US on its part needs to provide verifiable proof instead of making assertions about the presence of militants in the country. If the Pentagon is so well-informed about the Haqqani network and the Afghan Taliban in Pakistan, why is there no more information to go on? This is pure speculation on part of the US – if there was anything more, there would be greater pressure on Pakistan to deliver, or at the very least, we would see an instance of the US taking matters into its own hands, as it did when Mullah Akhtar Mansour surfaced on the Iran-Pakistan border.

Pakistan has admitted to the presence of Afghan militants in Pakistan on more than one occasion though; Special Advisor to the Prime Minister, Sartaj Aziz has admitted to this, Foreign Secretary Aizaz Chaudhry has admitted this, and candid admissions have also been made by others. While it is true that Pakistan is now doing more than it ever did to fight terrorism, there is still some way to go. And in any case, denying what is true is of no use to anyone. Pakistan should tell the US and other countries making demands that coercing the Afghan Taliban is no longer in the hands of Pakistan, that it is doing all it can to fight terrorism, but that does not mean that any and all militants related to the two groups will be eradicated just because Pakistan wants this. If fighting terrorism was really that easy, the countries fighting it (including the US) would have emerged victorious long ago. Demands cannot be made between allies, Pakistan need not accede to all the wishes of the US, but at the same time, denying what is obvious is also counter-productive.