Pakistan today held the emergency meeting of its National Security Council in a desperate bid to find a way to respond to the latest accusations levelled against it by US President Donald Trump but no details of the meeting have been made public so far. “The meeting discussed the way forward in the wake of US President Donald Trump’s recent anti Pakistan remarks,” is all that a three-line Radio Pakistan brief said after the meeting.
But Khawaja Asif, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister, did indicated what transpired in the meeting when he questioned the the rationale behind Trump’s latest accusations. In a tweet, after the meeting, he questioned the figure of $33billion quoted by Trump and asserted that “he can hire a US based Audit firm on Pakistan’s expense to verify the figure and let the world know who is lying and who is deceiving.”
The meeting was called after the most direct and hard hitting warning by Trump yesterday that Pakistan had given the US nothing but lies and deceit, thinking of US leaders as fools in spite of the US giving Pakistan more than $33 Billion in aid over the last 15 years.
Trump, in his first tweet of 2018, termed the US aid to Pakistan by his predecessors foolish as Pakistan gives safe haven to the terrorists the US has been hunting in Afghanistan and declared that there would be no help to Pakistan. No more! In what is being seen as a follow up of Trump’s tweet to tell Pakistan that the US is going to walk the talk this time, it soon suspended a part of its military assistance to Pakistan, $255 Million for FY2016, linking it with how Pakistan is going to behave in future.
The meeting was chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and was attended by the Khawaja Asif, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, its navy and air-force chiefs and other high-ranking civil and military officers. Pakistan has also called its Federal Cabinet meeting on Wednesday while its Parliamentary Committee on National Security will meet on Friday to discuss the matter.
The all-important NSC meeting, seeking a desperate way to respond to the latest Trump warning saw the Pak envoy in the US, Aizaz Chaudhry, being summoned. The meeting had inputs of Pakistan army to shape its response. Shortly before the NSC meeting, Pakistan army held its Corps Commanders’ conference and prepared its list of suggestions on Pakistan’s official response, Dawn News* reported.
INITIAL RESPONSE BY PAKISTAN
The initial response by Pakistan yesterday was to downplay the Trump tweet. Its Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, while reacting on Trump’s charges, said it held no importance, “We have already told the US that we will not do more, so Trump’s ‘no more’ does not hold any importance.” He said Pakistan was “ready to give all account for every single penny to America in public”. The country’s Defence Minister exhorted that Pakistan was capable of defending its motherland. Pakistan even summonsed the US envoy in Pakistan, David Hale, to lodge its protest on Trump’s tweet.
TRUMP’S LATEST IS NOT UNEXPECTED
Trump’s tough talk came a week after the US Vice-president Mike Pence had warned that the US President had put Pakistan on notice for its dubious role in the war against terror. While on a surprise visit to Afghanistan on 22 December, Pence had bluntly warned that “for too long Pakistan had provided safe haven to the Taliban and many terrorist organisations but those days were over as President Trump had put Pakistan on notice.”
Before that, while unveiling his first National Security Strategy on 18 December, Trump had given Pakistan some tough dressing-down reminding Pakistan that it owed to the US, “We have made clear to Pakistan that while we desire continued partnership, we must see decisive action against terrorist groups operating on their territory. And we make massive payments every year to Pakistan. They have to help.”
PAKISTAN NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL
Pakistan’s National Security Council is the country’s most powerful policy group on national security and foreign policy matters. The country’s president is its chairman and its members include the country’s prime minister, other senior ministers, three services chiefs, leader of the opposition, chairman of Pakistan’s senate, speaker of Pakistan’s national assembly, provincial chief ministers and other senior officials like the intelligence chiefs and the national security advisor. It is said that the NSC was created with the sole intention to formalize the Pakistani military policymaking role.
Earlier, on August 25, Pakistan had to convene an emergency meeting of its NSC after Donald Trump unveiled his Afghanistan centric South Asia policy which called Pakistan a terror haven and a treacherous nation involved in double-dealings. The revamped US policy in Afghanistan has major role for India in the country, something that has unnerved Pakistan.
Then the Pak NSC had outrightly rejected the US policy and the claims made in it, like it has done today, repeating the routine Pakistani bluster that the US is making Pakistan a scapegoat to hide its own failures in Afghanistan.