Pakistan cautioned the US against making it a "scapegoat" in the protracted Afghan war and rejected President Donald Trump's remarks that it harbours terrorists safe havens.
After a marathon five-hour long meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC), Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that the US stance on Pakistan is a "serious matter." The top civil and military leadership cautioned the US against making Pakistan a scapegoat and said it would not help maintain stability in Afghanistan.
"The Committee outrightly rejected the specific allegations and insinuations made against Pakistan. It was observed that to make Pakistan a scapegoat will not help in stabilising Afghanistan. In fact, being its immediate neighbour, Pakistan has an abiding interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan," according to an official statement.
The committee observed that Pakistan had to manage the blowback of a protracted conflict in Afghanistan that resulted in deluge of refugees, flow of drugs and arms and more recently in the shape of terrorist safe havens in eastern Afghanistan from where anti-Pakistan terrorist groups continue to operate and launch attacks inside Pakistan. "The complex issues and internal dynamics inside Afghanistan pose a grave challenge not only to Pakistan but to the broader region and the international community," it said. The meeting was convened by the prime minister to devise a "combined response" to Trump's accusation of Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists.
While noting the US commitment to continue to shoulder the burden of Afghanistan and reverse the expanding ungoverned spaces in the country, the meeting observed that Pakistan has consistently supported all international efforts for a stable and peaceful Afghanistan and has also committed more than a billion US dollars for infrastructure and social development.
"Over the years, Pakistan has worked with both the United States and Afghanistan to promote peace through a politically negotiated outcome which, in Pakistan’s view, remains the best option to bring stability to this war-torn country," it said. It also urged US to take action to "eliminate sanctuaries harbouring terrorists and miscreants on the Afghan soil including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan." "The Afghan war cannot be fought in Pakistan," it said. The leaders at the meeting said that Pakistan took indiscriminate actions against all terrorist networks.
The committee said that Pakistan was more interested in recognition of its efforts against terrorism than any financial or material assistance. "We consider the lives of the citizens of other countries as sacrosanct as those of our own and, therefore, Pakistan is committed to not allowing its soil to be used for violence against any other country. We expect the same from our neighbours," it said. It also rejected "claims of billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan as misleading" as most of the fund came reimbursements for part of the cost of ground facilities and air corridors used by the US for its operations in Afghanistan.
The committee also underscored that as a responsible nuclear weapon state, Pakistan has in place a robust and credible command and control system which has been universally recognised and appreciated. Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, who gave a detailed briefing to the meeting, later told parliament that Pakistan was not involved in any act to destabilise Kabul. In a policy response in Senate, he said the committee unanimously rejected the allegation by Trump administration. "It agreed that scapegoating Pakistan would not help effort to stabilise Afghanistan," he said.
Rejecting the allegation of safe havens, he said that the truth is that there are "safe havens in Afghanistan working against Pakistan." It was also agreed that the foreign minister would visit friendly countries including China and Russia to highlight Pakistan’s policy. According to sources, there was no chance of Asif going to America for which he as invited by State Secretary Rex Tillerson during a telephonic call earlier this month.
Earlier, Senate chairman Raza Rabbani had urged Asif to postpone his visit to US after Trump's statement. Sources said that Pakistan has already started contacts with key countries and visit of Prime Minister Abbasi to Saudi Arabai was part of it. Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Foreign Minister Asif, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee Zubair Hayat, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Air Chief ACM Sohail Aman, and Naval Chief Admiral Muhammad Zakaullah were among those who attended the meeting held at the PM House.