ISLAMABAD - Pakistan and the United States on Thursday made conflicting claims on this week’s drone attack in Kurram Agency by the US forces based in Afghanistan as the two sides struggle to build trust.

Addressing a weekly news briefing here, Foreign Office spokesperson Dr Muhammad Faisal said that Pakistan sticks to its stance that the US drone strike targeted an Afghan refugee camp near Kurram Agency.

However, US embassy spokesperson Richard Snelsire denied Pakistan’s assertion. “The claim in an MFA (Ministry of Foreign Affairs) statement that US forces struck an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency yesterday (January 24) is false,” he said.

On a question regarding drone strike, Dr Faisal said Pakistan’s position remained the same. “We condemn the drone strike in Kurram Agency carried out by the Resolute Support Mission, which targeted an Afghan refugee camp. Pakistan continues to emphasise to the US the importance of sharing actionable intelligence so that appropriate action is taken against terrorists by our forces within our territory,” he said. The spokesperson did not comment when questioned about the existence of any ‘agreement’ on US drone strikes inside Pakistan.

Dr Faisal said Pakistan had also been stressing the need of early repatriation of Afghan refugees, as their presence in Pakistan helps Afghan terrorists to melt and morph among them. “Such unilateral actions are detrimental to the spirit of cooperation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

The spokesperson said Pakistan had always aspired to an early, dignified, sustainable and complete repatriation of Afghan refugees. “We also believe that it is very important that Afghanistan and the international community invest in the creation of pull factors for incentivizing the return of refugees through, for example, provision of homes and employment, and take appropriate steps for a smooth reintegration of the returned refugees into the Afghan society,” he explained.

To a question, he said the monitoring team (MT) of the United Nations Security Council 1267 Sanctions Committee, dealing with the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Daesh, is in Pakistan for a two-day visit. “The last visit of the MT to Pakistan took place in January 2015,” he said.

Dr Faisal said the visit of the MT was part of its regular visits to member states to assess compliance with the UN sanctions regimes relating to the implementation of UNSC resolution 1267.

“The team also apprised member states of current international and regional threat assessment from terrorism and suggests a way in which the member states can improve their implementation of sanctions measures,” he said.

During the visit, he said, the MT was being briefed on the implementation of 1267 obligations as well as shared our perspective on the terrorist threat in the region. “The visit also gave us an opportunity to highlight our accomplishments in turning the tide against terrorism inside Pakistan and in support of the global fight against terrorism,” he said.

Asked if the UNSC team will be given access to Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, Faisal said: “The MT has a particular mandate of UN sanctions regime related to the implementation of the UNSC resolution 1267.”

On the resolution of the Afghanistan issue, he said Pakistan had always maintained that the only viable solution to the Afghan conflict lied in a politically negotiated, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

“The military approach has been tried for over sixteen years and has failed to render the desired results. It has only increased the sufferings of the Afghan people and enhanced their resentment against the foreign forces on their land. The peace deal signed between the Afghan-government and Hizb-e-Islami can serve as a model for future talks with other insurgent groups including the Taliban,” he said. 

On anti-Pakistan curriculum provided by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, along the Pak-Afghan border, he said: “The foreign ministry has taken up this matter with the UNHCR and conveyed deep concerns. We expect international organizations to adhere to the highest standards of professionalism, impartiality, and respect for national laws. The UNHCR has undertaken to launch an investigation and share its findings.”

To a question on India’s arms buildup, Dr Faisal said there existed a clear disconnect between India’s declared policy of restraint and its relentless pursuit of an ambitious missile programme.

The development of Agni V ICBM, he said, unmasked India’s real designs of pursuing hegemony and was an exercise in power projection. “While every state has a right to its security, the buildup of sophisticated and advanced weapons and delivery systems by India far exceeds its legitimate defence needs. Seen in the backdrop of other acquisitions of advanced capabilities in both the conventional and non-conventional domains, these developments will negatively impact strategic stability in the South Asian region and beyond,” he warned.

He said Pakistan will continue to adhere to a policy of restraint and a responsible defence posture but will not be oblivious to such worrying developments.

He said in 2017 Indian forces carried out 1970 ceasefire violations, resulting in the death of more than 50 innocent Pakistani civilians and injuries to more than 200. He urged the world to force India to stop human rights violations in Kashmir.

On the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said, the CPEC was a project of national importance for Pakistan. “It entails several infrastructures, road, energy, rail and other projects. Several of the early harvest projects of CPEC have already been implemented and the positive outcome of these is evident to all. India has embarked on a malicious propaganda campaign to malign CPEC by false invocation against CPEC,” he said.

Asked when will the report about the shoe of Indian spy Kulbhushan Jhadav’s wife be made public, he said: “The report will be shared at an appropriate time.”

He said 1,829 highly qualified and revered Pakistani religious scholars from all schools of thought had issued a fatwa (religious decree) against suicide bombing and terrorism, terming it “Haraam” — absolutely prohibited as per the teachings of Islam.

 

 

Pakistan, US spar over drone strike

 

SHAFQAT ALI