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America's stern warning to Pakistan for offering 'safe havens' to terrorists
US President Donald Trump, in his address (August 22, 2017) to the nation from the army base at Fort Myer, Virginia outlined the US policy for south Asia.

While disclosing his policy on Afghanistan, President Trump lambasted Pakistan for harbouring terrorists and warned that USA would not remain silent about Pakistan's providing safe havens for terrorist organisations. He added that while USA was paying "billions of dollars" to Pakistan, at that same it was housing the very terrorists that USA was fighting with. He also questioned Pakistan's role in dealing with   militant groups like the Afghan Taliban and its affiliated group, the Haqqani network. President Trump also warned Pakistan to change its policy "immediately" and stop sheltering terrorists.

Almost within a few hours of President Trump's tough talk on Pakistan for its support to terrorism in Afghanistan, US ambassador to Pakistan David Hale met Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif in Islamabad and briefed him about President Trump's statement on the US policy review on south Asia and Afghanistan. During the meeting, Khawaja Asif reiterated Pakistan's perspective and desire for peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Notably, on the very next day of President Trump's warning to Pakistan,  US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, unequivocally warned (August 23, 2017) Pakistan that that it could lose its status as a privileged military ally  of USA if it continued giving "safe haven" to Afghan militant groups. While reminding Pakistan that USA had "some leverage" such as in terms of aid, their status as a non-Nato alliance partner, Tillerson warned Pakistan that USA could hit terrorists wherever they live and did not rule out such strikes.

Following President Trump's severe criticism of Pakistan over siding with terrorists, Pakistan's federal cabinet held a mid-night meeting (August 23, 2017, Islamabad)  Chaired by Prime Minister Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and asked USA to stop  relying on the 'false narrative' of 'safe havens' and work with Pakistan  to eradicate terrorism.  While the Pakistan Cabinet believed that anti-Pakistan lobby was misguiding President Trump against Pakistan, Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohammed Asif informed the cabinet that he would forcefully take up Pakistan's case in his upcoming visit to Washington to meet his US counterpart Rex Tillerson.

Pakistan Foreign Office also issued a statement (August 23, 2017) described US's   policy statement as "disappointing" as it ignored the "enormous" sacrifices rendered by the Pakistani nation to counter the menace of terrorism. While declaring that Pakistan had been and "will continue to be part of the global counter terrorism efforts," it added that Pakistan did  not allow use of its territory against any country and it was committed to work with international community for defeating the forces of terrorism and to promote peace and stability in the south Asian region. The Kashmir issue was also referred to and it was claimed that so-called "non-resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute remained the primary obstacle to peace and stability in the region.

Some other senior US officials also joined in warning Pakistan over its support to terrorists.  National Security Council (NSC) Spokesperson Michael Anton declared that business as usual with Pakistan was over and US could impose sanctions on terrorist groups, including the Haqqani network as well as on Pakistani government officials having ties with terrorist organisation. US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley warned Pakistan by saying that "it works when the President speaks up" as President Trump follows through to stomp out terrorism.

Senior Pakistani politicians have also criticised President Trump's warning to Pakistan. Pakistan People's Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari asked US to remember that Pakistan was not Afghanistan, and hence should be treated differently. Pakistan, he added, has rendered more sacrifices than the Americans in the war on terror. Another senior leader of his party, Sherry Rehman claimed that it were others who need to do more in Afghanistan, but not Pakistan. Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) leader Syed Ali Raza Abidi raised concerns on the US-India relations and alleged that USA was strengthening its relations with India and Afghanistan as America's concern was not terrorism but China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Pakistan's popular opposition leader and Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) also criticised President Trump and strongly denounced the latter's assertion of Pakistan being a 'safe haven' for terrorists. He stated that USA had once again blamed Pakistan for its decade-old deeply "flawed and failed" Afghan policy just as India blamed Pakistan for the so-called indigenous Kashmiri uprisings whereas these were a result of India's own failed policy of alleged repression in Kashmir.

He also added that Pakistan had fought two wars in Afghanistan at the behest of USA and paid a heavy price by sacrificing 70000 Pakistani lives and suffered over $100 billion in losses and Pakistan should never fight others' wars for the lure of dollars. 

Pakistan's former High Commissioner to India Abdul Basit also reacted over President Trump's speech and stated that American consent towards Indian intervention in Afghanistan was critical and a serious issue and added that either US was not aware of ground realities or was "ignoring" them intentionally.   

Meanwhile, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) promptly reacted to President Trump's warning of sending more troops to Afghanistan. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, in a statement (August 22, 2017), warned that if America did not withdraw its troops soon, Afghanistan would become another "graveyard" for superpower, the USA in the 21st century. He also described President Trump's policy on Afghanistan as "vague and nothing new".

Another senior Taliban commander also told a foreign news agency from an undisclosed location by telephone that Taliban would continue their war and America was "just wasting" it soldiers. Prior to President Trump's address, Taliban, in an open letter had also warned USA not to send more troops to Afghanistan and had also called for "complete" withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. A commander from the Taliban-allied Haqqani network, also told a foreign news agency that Trump had proved "it's a Crusade" as his statement indicated that he wanted to eliminate the entire Muslim 'Umma'.

After President Trumps' policy statement on Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi reaffirmed Beijing's support to Pakistan with a meeting (August 23, 2017, Beijing) with Pakistan Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua and lauded Pakistan's contributions and sacrifices in the fight against terrorism and agreed that Pakistan and China would continue cooperating with each other closely in efforts to establish peace in Afghanistan. China also appreciated Pakistan's being on the frontline in the struggle against terrorism and for making "great sacrifices" and "important contributions" in the fight against terror.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ms Hua Chunying in her daily briefing to the press also defended Pakistan and stated (August 23, 2017, Beijing) that Pakistan was on the frontline in the struggle against terrorism and had made "great sacrifices" and "important contributions" in this fight. China believed that international community should fully recognise Pakistan's anti-terrorism fight. She also expressed China's "happiness" on Pakistan and the United States carrying out anti-terror cooperation on the basis of mutual respect, and hoped that they would work together for security and stability in the region and the world.    

Since Pakistan's foreign policy on India and Afghanistan is formulated and implemented by Pakistan army, the civilian government of Prime Minister Abbasi would have little choice to give any heed to President Trump's warning to Pakistani on its support to terrorist activities in Afghanistan.

Also, Pakistan army considers Afghan Taliban and Haqqani group as a Pakistan's "valuable assets" to counter Indian influence in Afghanistan and in the region.  

However, Pakistan would continue its anti-militancy operations but only against anti-Pakistani terrorists, mainly Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP).Therefore, it is unlikely that  even after President Trump's warning to Pakistan there will be any significant change in Pakistan's foreign policy on Afghanistan and India.

Meanwhile, Pakistan would be coming closer to its "all weather friend" China and attempt to woo Russia on its side to deal with tough economic policies of USA against it in the coming future. Hence, President Trump's tough talk is unlikely to move Pakistan and it would continue its policy of offering "safe havens" to Afghan Taliban and Haqqani group.

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of merinews.com. In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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