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Pakistan's indignation over US President Trump's warning
President Trump's open notice to Pakistan to mend its ways and stop sheltering terrorists in its territory evoked strong reactions from all quarters in Pakistan, including political and military leadership, parliamentarians, Islamic rightist parties, umbrella organisations of banned militant outfits and general masses.

Pakistan has also suspended US-Pak bilateral talks and officials' visits. It is also contemplating some major changes in its relations with the United States.

In retaliation to unabated American verbal pressure on the issue of providing "safe havens" to terrorists, Pakistan also snubbed USA diplomatically  and postponed (August 28, 2017) the visit of Acting US Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells giving plea of 'busy schedule' of Pakistani officials.

Alice Wells was expected to discuss Trump's new Afghanistan policy with the Pakistani leadership and this would have been her second visit to Pakistan in August 2017. Later on, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif confirmed (Islamabad, August 28, 2017) to a committee of upper house, the Senate that Pakistan had suspended bilateral visits and talks with the United States as a mark of protest over the US President Trump's anti-Pakistan diatribe.

Pakistan has also decided to bring some major changes in its bilateral relations with USA and decided not to interact with US government on bases of old ties and  not to conduct the diplomatic communication as a strategic partner and ally of US. Furthermore, Pakistan has also decided not to allow any official of US administration to visit Pakistan without Pakistan government's prior approval and not to welcome any US official who visits Pakistan without approval or permission of the government. It was reported that US officials working in Pakistan were on high alert since the speech of President Trump on Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, there were indications of USA's launching military attacks on Taliban after President Trump's warning as a leading Pakistani daily 'The Nation" reported (August 24, 2017) about the killing of 20 persons on Pakistani side on Afghan border in two suspected missiles attacks by the USA. However, US State Department spokesman Robert Gibbs refused to comment on the reported incident. It was also reported that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had turned down a request from the State Department's Office of Religion and Global Affairs to host an Eid-ul-Fitr reception as part of Ramazan celebrations, which was in place since 1999. 

US's threat to Pakistan on terrorism was criticised at the highest level in Pakistan. Pakistan Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif sharply reacted over President Trump's warning to Pakistan. Prime Minister Abbasi claimed that President Trump's policy on Afghanistan was also poised to fail like the plans of his predecessors. He also declared that Pakistan would not allow anybody to fight Afghanistan's battle on Pakistan's soil and Islamabad did not harbour terrorists. Abbasi also expressed Pakistan's willingness to work with all countries, including India for peace in the region.

On the other hand, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, in an interview to the local TV, alleged that Afghan soldiers were selling American arms and ammunitions to the Taliban and over 90 per cent of the attacks in Pakistan were carried out from Afghanistan. He also claimed (Sialkot, August 28, 2017) that recent statement of US President Donald Trump would  not affect the economic condition of Pakistan  as the country was already not receiving any US aid for the last one year.

Meanwhile, Khawaja Asif also postponed his previously scheduled visit to USA and decided to visit China, Russia and Turkey first to consult "friendly countries" and discuss US warning to Pakistan on Taliban and developing regional consensus on efforts for peace in Afghanistan, before meeting his counterpart, Rex Tillerson in Washington.  

Meanwhile, after getting severely reprimanded by President Trump and American administration over Pakistan's providing 'safe havens' to Taliban, the US military leadership also heavily came down on Pakistan asking it to stop supporting terrorists,  as it was a serious issue.

The US military also joined American political leadership and lashed out and warned Pakistan. Commander for US Forces and Nato in Afghanistan, General John W Nicholson, in a special interview (August 26, 2017) to TOLO News, which is Afghanistan's first 24/7 news channel, criticized Pakistan for providing safe sanctuaries to Afghan Taliban and stated that US leadership knew that Taliban leadership 'resides in Quetta and Peshawar'.

While asking Pakistan to stop its support to terrorists and insurgents he described the issue of Pakistan's providing sanctuaries by Pakistan as a "serious one". He did not rule out possibility of diplomatic solution but added that a significant military effort inside Afghanistan would be carried out and US would work with the Afghan government to increase its military capabilities. He also asked Taliban to join the peace process as they could not win militarily.  

Before Gen W Nicholson's warning to Pakistan, the top Pakistani military leadership had also reacted over American accusation of "harbouring terrorists". Chief of Army Staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, in a meeting (Islamabad, August 24, 2017) with General John W Nicholson  shared concerns  over increasing US criticism and  USA's undermining Pakistan's contributions in the war against terrorism. He, however, assured Gen W Nicholson that Pakistan would continue to act positively despite such  provocations.

Gen Nicholson's comments were, however, not taken well and were rejected by Federal Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Balochistan Home Minister Mir Sarfaraz Ahmed Bugti and several other national level leaders of different political parties, like Shah Farman, spokesperson for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI).

Notably, ruling Pakistan Muslim League (N)'s senior leader and Chief Minister of Punjab (Pakistan) also reacted sharply (Lahore, August 28, 2017) on US President   Trump's allegation that Pakistan received billions of dollars in aid whereas it did not act against "terrorist havens" in the country. He described President Trump's statement as "rubbing salt into the wounds of Pakistanis suffering terrorism, poverty and backwardness".  He also added that it was time to wave "goodbye" to the American aid to avert such "jibes" from USA, as well as to free Pak-US bilateral relations from the shadow of repeated American "contemptuous taunts". He also criticised USA for making unfair demands and accusations against Pakistan.

Parliamentarians from Pakistan's Senate, the upper house also joined the government's concern and had a detailed debate on Trump's speech. While Defence Minister Khurrum Dastagir denied using of Pakistani territory against any country and described US warning as based on false narratives, several Senators and Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani severely criticised USA and demanded Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to cancel his proposed visit to the USA. Similar demand was also made by some leading right-wing Islamic parties like Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen, Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat, Difa-i-Pakistan Council and supporters of banned Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD).   

Meanwhile, anti-US tirade was witnessed in several parts of Pakistan. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Punjab (Pakistan) tribesmen and others took out anti-US rallies. Some rightist Islamic parties along with supporters of banned Jammat-ud-Dawa (JuD) also organised anti-US rallies.

Tribesmen and others held anti-US protest rallies (August 27, 2017) at the Pak-Afghan border crossings at Chaman in Balochistan and other places in the province, including Kohlu and Sibi. In Torkham, and Khyber Agency in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) people staged anti-US protests. A large number of Pakistani Sikhs living in the area also participated in the rallies.    

In some other cities of Balochistan and Punjab (Pakistan), Islamic parties like Difa-i-Pakistan Council, Majlis Wahdatul Muslimeen and Tanzeem Ittehad-i-Ummat separately took out anti-US rallies and held demonstrations against President Trump's warning to Pakistan in various cities of Pakistan including in Lahore, Multan and Rawalpindi. 

In Lahore, protest demonstrations outside the US consulate and sit-in were held demanding that Pakistan should severe diplomatic ties with Washington and suspend Nato supplies. In Multan, local traders and JuD jointly held anti-US demonstrations burnt the American flag and Trump's pictures. Sami-ul-Haq, Chief of the Defence of Pakistan Council, which is an umbrella organisation for sheltering banned militant outfits, also condemned USA and called for 'Jihad against USA'.

Standoff between USA and Pakistan is likely to stay there for some time till both countries resolve the issue "privately". While Pakistani politicians cannot afford to overlook getting severely reprimanded by the US in view of anti-American sentiments of people considering the next general elections due in June 2018, Pakistan army would also not accept the American demand to "discard" Taliban, as they are considered to be an "asset" by the Pakistan army.

China's solid political and economic support to Pakistan may be another factor giving strength to Pakistan to face USA boldly. On the other hand, USA knows that it cannot resolve the Afghan problem merely by force as it had failed in Vietnam and Iran by resorting to military measures. Moreover, USA due to strategic interests in the region also cannot afford to leave Pakistan in lurch allowing  China and Russia to be more influential in the region, which may create "regional imbalance" from American point of view.

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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