ISLAMABAD: Pakistan and the United States blamed each other for strains in bilateral ties, yet both sides managed to show their conciliatory side during high-level meetings here on Friday.

While Pakistani officials accused the US of violating the country’s sovereignty by carrying out a drone attack in Nushki last month, disregarding their security interests and undermining the Afghan peace process, a visiting American delegation pointed to the continued presence of Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries on Pakistani soil because of what it called inadequate action by security forces against them.

The accusations were exch­a­n­ged during the two meetings that the US delegation had at the Foreign Office and the General Headquarters.


Upset by Nushki drone strike, Islamabad conveys strong message to American officials


The US delegation compri­sed Special Envoy for Afgha­nistan and Pakistan Ambas­sador Richard Olson and Dir­e­c­tor for Pakistan and Afgha­nistan at the US National Se­c­urity Council Dr Peter Lavoy.

The US team was here on an assessment-cum-fence-men­ding mission after the strains in bilateral ties became too obvious to miss. Gen John Nicholson, Comman­der Reso­lu­te Support Mission in Afghanistan, joined the duo during their visit to the GHQ.

The two meetings were described by an official as ‘cold’ with the one at the Foreign Office lasting for about half an hour. An FO statement described the discussion, which focused on the Nushki drone strike and its fallout, as ‘candid’.

Adviser to the Prime Minis­ter on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, the FO said, “conveyed a strong message” over the drone strike that violated Pakis­tan’s sovereignty and vitiated bilateral ties. He said the May 21 drone strike was also a breach of the principles of the United Nations’ Charter.

He warned that “any future drone strike in Pakistan will be detrimental to our common desire to strengthen relations”. Pointing to the surge in violence in Afghanistan after the Nushki attack in which then Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed, Mr Aziz reminded the US about the setback caused by the attack to the reconciliation efforts.

A similar sense was conveyed when the delegation met Army Chief Gen Raheel Sharif at the GHQ.

The army chief told the American officials that the drone strike had affected “mutual trust and respect” and damaged the move to consolidate the gains of Operation Zarb-i-Azb.

The American side res­ponded to Pakistani allegations by pointing to the presence of Taliban and Haqqani network sanctuaries on Pakistani soil. They, in particular, made references to the death of Mullah Mansour on Pakistani soil and recovery of his Pakistani identity and travel documents. They told their Pakistani interlocutors that the presence of Taliban and Haqqani network on Pakistani soil threatened not only Pakistan, but also the region and the US national security interests.

The US has maintained this position in dialogue with Pakistan for over a year now and American officials des­cribe the issue as a “real challenge” in the relationship.

The US defence secretary has, meanwhile, been withholding a certification to the Congress that actions by Pakistani security agencies in tribal areas have seriously impacted the operational capability of the Haqqani network.

Pakistani officials insist that their security agencies have indiscriminately targeted all militant groups.

Three-point demand

Pakistan, which had previously been linking any action against the Taliban to a consensus within the Quadri­late­ral Coordination Group (QCG), has now presented a three-point demand for any progress towards reconciliation or action against the alle­ged sanctuaries, which incl­u­­de tightening border controls; early repatriation of over three million Afghan refugees; and action against TTP [Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan] operatives in Afghanistan.

These ideas do not exactly sound new, but have been articulated in this manner for the first time.

“These steps would help ... promote better relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and reduce mistrust,” the FO said.

Gen Raheel Sharif told the American visitors that censuring Pakistan for Afghanistan’s security woes was wrong. He called for a comprehensive review of the situation by taking into account the porous border, inter-tribal linkages and decades-old presence of over 3m Afghan refugees in Pakistan.

He demanded action against banned TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah and TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan and vowed to foil plots of Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies — RAW and NDS — to foment terrorism in Pakistan.

Dr Lavoy, according to the FO, reiterated President Barack Obama’s commitment to improving relations with Pakistan.

Gen Sharif, meanwhile, renewed Pakistan’s pledge to work for a long-term peace in Afghanistan under the QCG framework.

According to APP, Dr Lavoy also conveyed President Obama’s good wishes for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s speedy recovery.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2016

Opinion

Gaming LNG
Updated 05 Aug 2021

Gaming LNG

What looked like rank incompetence about a year ago is now beginning to smack of malfeasance.
Healing the spirit
05 Aug 2021

Healing the spirit

ROC medal winners could not hear their national anthem being played.
Returning to a repressive order
Updated 04 Aug 2021

Returning to a repressive order

There is no sign of the Taliban showing any flexibility in their position and taking a more moderate stance.

Editorial

A tragic anniversary
Updated 05 Aug 2021

A tragic anniversary

Attempts to change IOK's demography should end and India must open channels with the genuine Kashmiri leadership.
05 Aug 2021

Currency pressure

THE increasing demand for dollars in the wake of surging imports and debt repayments has put significant pressure on...
05 Aug 2021

Protecting breastfeeding

A LOT has been said about the fact that 40pc of children under five years in Pakistan are stunted. The reasons...
PML-N’s dilemma
Updated 04 Aug 2021

PML-N’s dilemma

The road ahead for the PML-N is going to be long and bumpy no matter which narrative it follows.
04 Aug 2021

Attacks on cops

AMIDST cautious optimism that Pakistan may be finally beginning to achieve success in bringing the number of polio...
04 Aug 2021

Myanmar about-face

SIX months into the coup that sent Myanmar’s hybrid civ-mil government packing, the generals have made their...