WASHINGTON: The United States has said that Pakistan’s decision to ban the Haqqani network and some other militant groups is an important step towards eliminating terrorism.
“We welcome (the decision) to outlaw the Haqqani Network, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, and I think about 10 other organisations linked to violent extremism,” State Department Deputy Spokesperson Marie Harf said at a news briefing in Washington.
“It is an important step, certainly, towards eliminating terrorist activity in Pakistan,” she said, adding that there was “a huge focus” on counter-terrorism measures during Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to Islamabad last week.
Officials in Islamabad told journalists that Pakistan had decided to ban 10 terror outfits, which target US and Afghan militaries in Afghanistan.
Counter-terrorism experts in Washington said the move indicated a “paradigm shift” in Pakistan’s security policy and might have been triggered by the Dec 16 terrorist attack by Taliban on a Peshawar school that killed more than 130 schoolchildren.
“Certainly, this would be an important step going forward. We certainly believe that if this goes forward, that it would be an important step,” Ms Harf said.
“We have a long history of close cooperation with Pakistan on counter-terrorism efforts. We’ve been very clear with the Pakistani
government that they need to crack down and go after all terrorist groups that threaten them, threaten their people — their people are, unfortunately, the victims of more terrorist attacks than, people probably anywhere else,” she said.
“It is an ongoing conversation, certainly, but this would be a very important step,” she added.
She said that Secretary Kerry had a successful visit to Pakistan, holding conversations not just on counter-terrorism issue, “although that was a huge focus”.
She said that the secretary also wanted to personally express his condolences over the horrific attack at a school in Peshawar.
The talks also focused on the economic and other issues, Ms Harf said. “It’s a broad relationship that goes beyond security.”
But Pakistan’s counter-terrorism measures were a key part of what Secretary Kerry wanted to focus on when he was there.
In his meetings with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other Pakistani officials, Secretary Kerry emphasised that the US was committed to deepening its security partnership with Pakistan, Ms Harf said.
She noted that in Islamabad, Secretary Kerry announced a $250 million package for people displaced during the government’s operation against militants in Fata.
The State Department official said that the US and Pakistan had a long history of close cooperation with Pakistan on counterterrorism efforts.
“We’ve been very clear with the Pakistani government that they need to crack down and go after all terrorist groups that threaten them, threaten their people,” she said, noting that the Pakistani people were the victims of more terrorist attacks than people probably anywhere else.
“So it’s an ongoing conversation, certainly, but (banning the groups) would be a very important step,” she said.
Published in Dawn, January 17th, 2015