ISLAMABAD - Washington has assured Islamabad that the United States does not consider Pakistan a “backstabbing nation” and a hostile statement by Congressman Ted Poe was only his personal opinion, officials here said.

Officials at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Islamabad contacted Washington after Poe’s statement in which he dubbed Pakistan a “backstabbing nation” and appreciated US Defense Secretary James Mattis’ decision to withhold Coalition Support Fund (CSF) to Pakistan.

Poe is the chair of the terrorism, non-proliferation, and trade sub-committee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

The congressman had tweeted: “Under the National Defense Authorization Act, the secretary of defense must be able to verify that the backstabbing nation of Pakistan has taken sufficient action against the Haqqani network in the fight against terrorism.”

Appreciating Mattis’ decision, Poe said, he was “encouraged by this step of revoking funding to our Benedict Arnold ally.”

Last week, the defense secretary announced that the United States had decided to block $350 million payment to Pakistan under the CSF for not taking “sufficient actions” against the Haqqani terror network.

Afghanistan claims Haqqani network was behind terror attacks in the war-torn country.

Earlier, the annual “Country report on terrorism” from the US State Department, said: “Pakistan did not take sufficient action against other externally focused groups, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad in 2016, which continued to operate, train, organise, and fundraise in Pakistan.”

A senior official at the foreign ministry told The Nation that Washington did not own the congressman’s views.

“This is his personal opinion but the US does not consider Pakistan as a backstabbing nation. The US respects Pakistan’s role in the war on terror,” the official quoted the US counterparts as telling Islamabad.

He added: “They did point out that Islamabad still had to do a lot to win the confidence of the US as several congressmen and the senators in the US had more or less the same opinion for Pakistan as Poe.”

Another official at the foreign ministry said the US’s tilt towards India and Afghanistan had been obvious but Islamabad had assured Washington that Pakistan was fighting the terror groups without any discrimination.

“The US policy seems to be a bit negative towards Pakistan but there is still time to sort it out. Officially, we are still their ally,” the official said.

This month, Foreign Office spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that Haqqani network was not operating from Pakistan but Afghanistan.

He said that the Afghan allegation – backed by the US and India – about the presence of the Haqqani network in Pakistan was “mere rhetoric”.

“It’s more of rhetoric than anything else. It is an attempt to put the blame of failures in Afghanistan on others. As a result of Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operations, without any discrimination, the terrorists are on the run and their infrastructure has been dismantled. These terrorists, namely Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Tehreek-e-Taliban Afghanistan, Daesh, Jamaatul Ahrar, remnants of Al-Qaeda and a number [of] other splinter groups are settled in the ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan,” Zakaria said.

In the recent days, the US has asked Pakistan to improve its ties with India and Afghanistan.

Washington conveyed to Islamabad that they were not happy with Islamabad’s efforts for regional peace.

Officials at the foreign ministry said that Washington was clearly standing with New Delhi and Kabul downplaying Islamabad’s efforts for regional peace.

Pakistan has been trying to improve confidence-level with the US amid tensions with India, Afghanistan and Iran.

Skirmishes along the Line of Control (LoC) with India have become a routine as Afghanistan and Iran accuse Pakistan of sheltering militants. 

International affairs expert Dr Farooq Hasnat said that the Pak-US ties had been strained over the recent years that needed proper attention of the government.

“Pakistan has contributed positively in the war on terror. The diplomats should back this up to improve Pakistan’s image. There is some work to be done in Washington,” he said.

International relations expert Dr A Z Hilali said that the US needed Pakistan but there were always ups and downs in ties.

“The US is aware that Pakistan holds the key to improving situation in Afghanistan and the region. We have already done so much for peace in South Asia,” he added.

Hilali said that the US should not take sides in South Asia and took care of Pakistan’s interests.

“We should also work to build confidence with the US,” he said.