KARACHI: Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz said on Sunday that the United States in a manner wanted Pakistan to act against the Afghan Taliban, but “Pakistan cannot fight Afghanistan’s war on its own soil”.

In an interview with the state-owned PTV, Mr Aziz maintained that the US authorities had this “misconception” that Pakistan was backing some Taliban groups or Haqqani network while Pakistan has effectively managed to demolish their whole infrastructure during the operation Zarb-i-Azb.

“Most of the groups fighting in Afghanistan are fighting from within but the perception persists that Pakistan should take action against them.”

About the peace dialogue, the adviser claimed that Pakistan had succeeded in forming the Quadrilateral Coordination Group at the last Heart of Asia Conference and the group formed a good mechanism.

“Our viewpoint was that you (Nato and Isaf) have been fighting for the last 15 years but could not bring peace, now dialogue is the only option for if Taliban cannot occupy Afghanistan they can continue this fight for years.”

Mr Aziz, however, lamented that both Afghan authorities and the Taliban were divided over the issue of talks.

“We can only bring the Taliban on the table using our influence, but ultimately Afghanistan has to talk with them. They (Afghan government) should strengthen their position on ground and secondly they should offer them (Taliban) something which they cannot gain on battlefield and lastly, the process should be consistent,” he said.

The adviser expressed the hope that if ground situation remained favourable for the Afghanistan government, peace talks could start.

About the border tensions with Afghanistan, he said that a strong and regulated border was in the interest of both countries, adding that he hoped that the Monday visit of Afgha­nistan’s deputy foreign minister would help resolve the issue.

Answering a question about Pak-US relations, he said that during the current government’s tenure the bilateral relations were restored on a larger scale, but Pakistan rejected the US pressure on the country’s nuclear programme as “it is a matter of our national security”.

Mr Aziz said that when the current government came to power, the US-Pakistan relations were on their lowest ebb due to Raymond Davis, Salala attack and Abbottabad attack issues, but the present set-up revived strategic dialogue with the US in 2013 and urged America to extend cooperation with Pakistan on all levels despite a change in its prio­rities.

The adviser claimed that the former president [Musharraf in an interview] admitted providing them (US authorities) verbal understanding on drone strikes in tribal areas and former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani too perhaps entered into a collusion with the US on such strikes, but the current PML-N government took a strong stance and gradually drone attacks diminished.

“In 2010, there were 117 drone strikes, but in 2014 there were only 12 and this year only three drone attacks were conducted. We raised our voice at the international level on this issue and went to the Inter­national Human Rights Council,” Mr Aziz said.

Answering a question about the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, he said that the Pakistan was speedily moving forward on the projects and was aware of all internal and external conspiracies against the corridor.

Published in Dawn, June 20th, 2016

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