US IS BLAMING PAKISTAN TO COVER ITS OWN FAILURES IN AFGHANISTAN: PAKISTAN’S FOREIGN MINISTER

The article originally appeared on India Today. 

The United States policy in Afghanistan is framed by defeated US generals and can never succeed with the baggage of defeat it carries, Pakistan has said blaming the US for singling out Pakistan to cover its own failures in the war ravaged south Asian nation.

“The US generals who faced defeat in Afghanistan in the last 15 years have formed the structure for the policy for this region,” remarked Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif* while speaking on the floor of the country’s senate today, adding that “no objective policy can be formed when it is baggage of defeat” and is bound to fail, a Geo News report said.

The report further quoted Asif saying “when the US holds Pakistan responsible, it, in fact, tries to brush its own defeat under the carpet.” Asif also informed the senate of Pakistan that he told this to the US in unequivocal terms, both during his visit to the US in September and US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s Pakistan visit on October 24, first by a senior US government official after US President Donald Trump unveiled his Afghanistan centric South Asia policy on August 21 where he blamed Pakistan for being a safe terror haven and harbouring terrorists who hurt US interests in Afghanistan, especially the Haqqani Network.

During his visit, Tillerson had reminded Pakistan that it needed to eradicate militants and terrorists operating from its soil, something which had seen strong reactions from Khawaja Asif and the Pakistani parliament.

Blaming the US and other international forces fighting in Afghanistan of being inept, Asif then had hit back saying it was indeed the central reason behind the prolonged Afghanistan crisis. He had further added that the “terrorist attacks were not planned on or executed from Pakistani soil and there were no terrorist safe havens in the country,” be it the Haqqani Network or others while its senate chairman had called Tillerson’s remarks unacceptable, “Tillerson’s statement seems like that of a viceroy’s before they visit a country.”

Pakistan has also dismissed the US threats of curtailing economic and military aid. “Pakistan only receives “a trickle” of economic assistance from the US and does not get any military hardware from them and Pakistanis are not like in the past when they were American’s proxy,” Asif recently said in an interview, even if the facts say otherwise. According to a USAID report, the US aid to Pakistan till 2012 stood at $60 Billion. Also, in the last five years alone, since 2011, Pakistan has received some $15 Billion in aid from America, including military and financial assistance.

After US President Donald Trump called Pakistan a treacherous nation and a safe haven for terrorists, engaged in double-dealings, harbouring and protecting the very same terrorists who attack the US interests in Afghanistan, while unveiling his South Asia policy, the US has increasingly been putting more pressure on Pakistan to honour its commitment.

Last month, when Pakistan was patting its back for its so-called brilliant rescue operation to liberate a US-Canadian family who was in Haqqanis’ captivity for five years, the terse response from Trump was, “the Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region.”

The US has taken measures including cutting military aid to Pakistan and is going to curtail its role in Afghanistan while at the same time is looking for a strategic partnership with India in Afghanistan’s reconstruction process, a cornerstone of Trump’s new Afghanistan policy, even if Pakistan sees an increased Indian presence in Afghanistan inimical to its interests.

©SantoshChaubey

US SEEKS INDIAN HELP IN ‘KEEPING AN EYE’ ON PAKISTAN

That is what Nikky Haley, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said while addressing an event. She pressed on making Pakistan accountable for its acts, demanding more from India’s neighbour. Pakistan has received billions of US dollars in the name of assisting the US in its fight against terror or to check the designs of the erstwhile USSR in the region.

But at the same time, it has harboured terror outfits that, apart from doing their routine drill – trying to destabilize and bleed India, something that makes them dear to the ruling Pakistani elite – now threaten and attack US interests, be it in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

A fact for which the US has been warning Pakistan for past some years, especially after Afghanistan based terror outfit Haqqani network was given safe haven by Pakistan and Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was found and killed in the country.

And the last two instalments of the US military aid to Pakistan, tied to its action against the Haqqanis, was stopped Pakistan couldn’t convince the US of its intent and action.

“We are really going to need India’s help in Afghanistan. They are the good neighbours and partner that we have in the region. So having them helps not only with infrastructure and the aid that they can give towards rebuilding Afghanistan, they can also help us to keep an eye on Pakistan,” Nikky Haley said while adding the elements from US President Donald Trump’s new Afghanistan and South Asia policy.

Under his government’s Afghanistan Policy, unveiled in August, Trump, among other policy changes, also announced that developing a strategic partnership with India was going to be a critical part of new US’ strategy for Afghanistan and South Asia in future.

While reiterating his stand on Pakistan being a safe haven for terrorists, he also warned Pakistan that the US would no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings and demanded that this attitude of doublespeak had to change immediately.

Trump and his administration, in fact, regularly slams Pakistan for being a terror haven and has warned if Pakistan doesn’t mend its ways then the US will be forced to withdraw Pakistan’s US ally status.

Nikky Haley repeated that again slamming Pakistan for harbouring terrorists, “Pakistan has been a partner to the US at times. We value and respect that. But we cannot tolerate this government or any other government giving safe haven to terrorists who target Americans. This new approach will require understanding and restraint from both Pakistan and India.”

©SantoshChaubey

PAKISTAN ARMY’S NO TO ITS FOREIGN MINISTER’S OFFER TO US FOR JOINT OPERATION AGAINST HAQQANIS

The Pakistan army has said no to the joint operation offer given by its foreign minister Khawaja Asif to the United States of America against the Haqqani Network.

Recently, while speaking in a TV interview, Khawaja Asif had said “his government had offered American authorities to visit Pakistan with evidence of Haqqani network’s safe havens in the country and if found, the Pakistani troops along with the US would destroy them once and for all.”

Asif Ghafoor, director-general of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) and Pakistan army’s spokesperson said “Pakistan’s soil will not be used for joint operations”. Ghafoor said there was no concept of joint operations on the soil of Pakistan while speaking on a TV programme on the rescue of five foreigners, a Canadian, his American wife and their three children, from Pakistan’s border areas along Afghanistan.

Khawaja Asif’s offer to US for a joint operation against the Haqqani network also drew criticism from political quarters. Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, former interior minister of Pakistan lashed out at Asif saying “sovereign nations never allow other countries to conduct operations inside their territory.”

Khawaja Asif was also widely criticised last month when he accepted presence of terror groups in Pakistan while he was in the US for the United Nations General Assembly. He called Haqqanis, Hafiz Saeed, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other terror outfits liabilities and pressed that his country needed to put its house in order. Reacting on Asif remarks, cricketer turned politician Imran Khan said Pakistan didn’t need enemies when it had such a foreign minister.

CIVILIAN VS MILITARY

Asif Ghafoor’s comments are also emblematic of the rift between Pakistan’s civilian government and its powerful military that has ruled for most of its independent history since 1947.

By flatly rejecting a proposal of its civilian government, the army again sent out the message that who was the real boss in Pakistan even if it meant Pakistan’s desperate efforts to mend ties with the US, its historical ally and one of the largest aid donors. The US has been blaming Pakistan for double-dealings and harbouring terrorists including the Haqqanis who regularly attack US interests in Afghanistan and has warned that it may soon end Pakistan’s US ally status.

Growing US criticism has forced Pakistan’s civilian government to look for ways to placate the only super power of the world but the Pakistan army, with its narrow China centric vision, fails to see the point. Last month, when Pakistani foreign minister was talking of putting a new foreign policy in place after a meeting of Pakistan’s foreign envoys, its army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa was singing a different tune with his assertion that “if Pakistan had not done enough in the war against terror, then no country in the world had done anything.”

THE SURGICAL STRIKE CHAOS

The surgical strike carried out by India last year in September inside Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir to avenge the Uri terror attack by Pakistan based terrorists that killed our 19 soldiers, most of them sleeping, is a classic example to see this civilian-military rift in Pakistan.

After the Surgical Strikes, first reactions came from Pakistan’s civilian establishment. Pakistan’s prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who had to resigns recently due to corruption charges against him, said it was an act of ‘naked aggression’ by the Indian Army. Khawaja Asif, who was Pakistan’s defence minister then, initially said yes there were such incidents over the night but if India did so again, we would give a strong reply. So they accepted the Surgical Strikes.

But after its all powerful military issued a denial, dismissing the very existence of the Surgical Strikes, in a desperate bid to save its face, Pakistan’s civilian establishment had no other option but to toe the line. And soon the whole Pakistan, including its media, started speaking in the language of its army – and the line was – no surgical strike took place and it was a mere Line of Control (LoC) aggression. But the episode caused Pakistan a great deal of embarrassment.

©SantoshChaubey

IN HIS MAIDEN UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY SPEECH, DONALD TRUMP TARGETS TERROR SAFE HAVENS AGAIN

The article originally appeared on India Today.

US President Donald Trump, while speaking at the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, reiterated his government’s resolve to hunt down and kill terrorists wherever they are.

Reaffirming his government’s resolve to fight terrorism he said, “We must deny the terrorists safe haven, transit, funding, and any form of support for their vile and sinister ideology and we must drive them out of our nations.”

And then, in a clear warning again to nations harbouring terrorists, he said it was time to expose and hold responsible those countries who support and finance terror groups like Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Taliban and others that slaughter innocent people. Though not named here, the world clearly knows that Pakistan is indeed a safe haven for terror groups like Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

And like he had said just a week ago, speaking during the 9/11 Memorial Observance at the Pentagon, he repeated that the US and its allies were working together to crush terrorists and stop the re-emergence of safe havens.

His Afghanistan policy, that he unveiled in July, found a place in his maiden UNGA speech. He said that from now on, the US security interests will dictate the length and scope of its military operations.

While speaking on the policy last month, Trump had slammed Pakistan for being a safe haven for terrorists and had sought to increase India’s role in Afghanistan. Earlier, Modi-Trump Joint Statement in June had called Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists and the term made its way to the US Country Report on Terrorism in July.

The US is disappointed and angry over Pakistan’s double-dealings, the country that has been a major recipient of US financial aid, over $15 billion in just last five years.

While detailing his South Asia policy, Trump slammed Pakistan and warned that the US will no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings. He demanded that Pakistan’s attitude of doublespeak had to change immediately.

Pakistan was still reeling under the pressure of an increasingly demanding US to crack down on terror networks when another powerful bloc of countries, the BRICS, alluded to Pakistan to rein in the terror groups operating from its soil.

It was a double whammy for Pakistan because the censure came from a multilateral platform which had its all-weather ally China as one of founding members besides India, Russia and Brazil.

Trump’s warning again, this time from the world’s only organization with a truly global participation, the United Nations, should only add to that pressure, when he made his priorities clear in unequivocal terms that “the US will stop radical Islamic terrorism because it cannot allow it to tear up his nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.”

©SantoshChaubey

9/11 ANNIVERSARY: DONALD TRUMP REITERATES RESOLVE TO ELIMINATE TERROR SAFE HAVENS

The article originally appeared on India Today on September 12.

Speaking during the 9/11 Memorial Observance at the Pentagon, US President Donald Trump reiterated his resolve to crack down on terror safe havens. Warning those who shelter terrorists and use terror as a policy tool, Trump warned that the “American forces were relentlessly pursuing and destroying the enemies of all civilized people, like we’d never seen before.”

Remembering the horror of the dark day when multiple terror attacks at the World Trade Centre, the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania sixteen years ago left 2977 dead and changed America and the world forever giving it organized, transnational terror organizations, Trump said that his administration was ensuring that terrorists never again had a safe haven to launch attacks against America.

Terming the attack on September 11, 2001 even worse than the attack on Pearl Harbour as it targeted civilians, Trump reassured American that terrorists have nowhere to hide, “We are making plain to these savage killers that there is no dark corner beyond our reach, no sanctuary beyond our grasp, and nowhere to hide anywhere on this very large Earth.”

REMINDER TO PAKISTAN

This is yet another stinging reminder to nations like Pakistan that harbour terror groups and employ terror as state policy. Trump has named Pakistan directly, on multiple occasions.

While unveiling his government’s Afghanistan centric South Asia policy last month, he had repeated his stand about Pakistan as a safe haven for terrorists, had slammed it for supporting terrorists and had sought to increase India’s role in Afghanistan.

Earlier, Modi-Trump Joint Statement in June called Pakistan a safe haven for terrorists and the term made its way to the US Country Report on Terrorism in July. Trump’s warning to Pakistan tells how miffed he is with the country. While detailing his South Asia policy, Trump slammed Pakistan and warned that the US will no longer be silent about Pakistan’s double-dealings. He demanded that Pakistan’s attitude of doublespeak had to change immediately.

Pakistan was still reeling under the pressure of an increasingly demanding US, the only superpower of the world and a major aid provider to Pakistan, to crack down on terror networks in real and tangible terms, when another powerful bloc of countries, the BRICS, alluded to Pakistan to rein in the terror groups operating from its soil. It was a double whammy for Pakistan because the censure came from a multilateral platform which had its all weather ally China as one of founding members besides India, Russia and Brazil.

The BRICS Declaration, while directly naming Pakistan based terror groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, said, “Recalling the primary leading role and responsibility of states in preventing and countering terrorism, we stress the necessity to develop international cooperation, in accordance with the principles of international law, including that of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs.” The BRICS Summit was held in the first week of this month in China.

INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE ON PAK TERROR

Increasing international pressure on terror infrastructure in Pakistan has created a sense of panic in the country’s ruling establishment. Though they deny it, their contradicting responses confirm it. First they rejected the BRICS Declaration. Then Pakistan’s Foreign Minister admitted presence of terror groups terming then an embarrassment for his country.

While Pakistan’s Foreign Minister was being realist and honest, its army chief chose to preach the world again when he said that “if Pakistan had not done enough in the war against terror, then no country in the world had done anything.” So it didn’t come as a surprise when Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi today warned the US approach on Pakistan, cutting military aid and sanctioning Pakistani officials would be counter-productive.

©SantoshChaubey

INCREASING INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE FORCES PAKISTAN TO TALK OF A NEW FOREIGN POLICY NARRATIVE

The article originally appeared on India Today.

A day after accepting presence of terror groups in Pakistan, its Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif has now said that his country’s needs a “new but correct direction in foreign policy narrative aimed at bridging the gap in the perception of Pakistan and some members of the international community on the issue of fighting terrorism.”

He was speaking after a three day meet of selected Pakistani envoys from countries like US, India, Russia and China to deliberate over increasing international criticism for allowing terrorists to use its soil to perpetrate terror in other countries.

“Asif said a new foreign policy narrative has been evolved and this would be finalized after input by the National Security Committee and the Parliament”, Radio Pakistan reported. The meet was organized to brainstorm on important foreign policy issues and “had in depth discussions on the new policy of the United States for South Asia and Pakistan’s relations with neighbouring countries especially India.”

US and India prominently figured in the three-day deliberations, the Radio Pakistan report indicates, “Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States briefed the participants on the US policy which helped crystallize many issues. Similarly, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India also briefed the conference about Pakistan-India relations.”

Though the frank admission by Pakistan’s Foreign Minister on presence of terror groups on its soil has come immediately after the BRICS Declaration which not only named and shamed terrorist groups like LeT, JeM, Haqqani Network and TTP, operating from inside Pakistan but also explicitly warned it, without naming it, when it said that it was primarily the responsibility of countries to prevent and counter terrorism, a course correction by Pakistan had become unavoidable given the incessant warnings by the only superpower of the world, the US, which is also a major aid provide to Pakistan, helping it with over $15 Billion in last five years.

Pakistan finds itself increasingly isolated on the world stage, especially after being repeatedly criticised for offering a safe haven to terrorists by US which even today warned it to change its approach towards terror groups. “We look to the Pakistan government to take decisive action against militant groups based in Pakistan that are a threat to the region,” a US States Department spokesperson said.

The US has taken measures including cutting military aid to Pakistan and is going to curtail its role in Afghanistan while at the same time is looking for a strategic partnership with India in Afghanistan’s reconstruction process even if Pakistan sees an increased Indian presence in Afghanistan inimical to its interests. The BRICS Declaration only added to it.

It has created a sense of panic in Pakistan’s ruling establishment. Though they deny it, their contradicting responses confirm it. A day after the BRICS Declaration, Pakistan’s Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir rejected it saying Pakistan had no terror safe havens.

But yesterday, in an interview, Khawaja Asif admitted presence of terror groups in Pakistan including India centric terror groups LeT and JeM and went on to say that his country must rein-in terror groups to avoid international embarrassment and needed a clean break from the country’s past. And today, when he emphasised on the need of new foreign policy narrative for Pakistan, it came in the backdrop of Pakistani army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa’s assertion that “if Pakistan had not done enough in the war against terror, then no country in the world had done anything.”

©SantoshChaubey

HERE’S WHY PAKISTAN HAD TO REJECT THE BRICS DECLARATION EVEN THOUGH IT WASN’T NAMED

The article originally appeared on India Today.

Pakistan today rejected the BRICS Declaration, which named and shamed terrorist groups operating from its soil, but it should be worried about the language in the document.

The Xiamen declaration says “those responsible for committing, organizing, or supporting terrorist acts must be held accountable.” It adds that fighting terrorism is primarily the role of the state.

“Recalling the primary leading role and responsibility of states in preventing and countering terrorism, we stress the necessity to develop international cooperation, in accordance with the principles of international law, including that of sovereign equality of states and non-interference in their internal affairs”, the declaration reads.

And that’s why Pakistan had to reject it – even if it wasn’t explicitly named, and even though China had said Islamabad’s counter-terrorism record wouldn’t be discussed at the summit.

INTERNATIONAL ISOLATION

Pakistan finds itself increasingly isolated on the world stage, especially after being repeatedly criticised for offering a safe haven to terrorists by the Donald Trump administration in Washington.

So even if the BRICS Declaration didn’t name Pakistan, the bloc’s leaders decided to mention terrorist groups that continue to operate with impunity with the tacit support of Pakistan’s ruling elite.

The message – that Pakistan needed to rein them in – was clear.

Pakistan’s response, of course, was a flat denial. Its defence minister, Khurram Dastagir, said “there are no safe terrorist safe havens in Pakistan,” The Nation reported.

Dastagir repeated the claim that the international community had failed to acknowledge his country’s efforts and sacrifices in the war against terror. He also alleged that it was Afghanistan that was a sanctuary for terrorists.

WIN FOR INDIA

For New Delhi, the strongly-worded BRICS Declaration is a diplomatic win, as the document specifically names Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, groups that perpetrate acts of terror on Indian soil.

They’re mentioned in a passage on the impact of terrorism in Afghanistan. “We strongly condemn terrorist attacks resulting in death to innocent Afghan nationals…. We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIL/DAISH, Al-Qaida and its affiliates including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad, TTP and Hizb ut-Tahrir.”

PAKISTAN’S PATRONAGE OF TERRORISM

Khurram Dastagir said whatever remained of the Pakistan-based terror groups listed in the BRICS Declaration would soon be eliminated.

But only last month, Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, who’s under house arrest in Pakistan, launched a political outfit: the Milli Muslim League. The party will contest the 2019 general elections.

Saeed, who masterminded the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, is only one of several examples of Pakistan’s patronage of terrorism.

The US and the United Nations declared him a terrorist, and Washington put a $10 million bounty on his head. But he continued to roam free in Pakistan for years.

It was stiff pressure from the US that led to his being placed under house arrest. But as the launch of the Milli Muslim League demonstrates, that hasn’t affected him in any perceptible way.

©SantoshChaubey