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NAFEES Zakaria says US has on occasion recognised Pakistan’s contribution to fight against terrorists.
NAFEES Zakaria says US has on occasion recognised Pakistan’s contribution to fight against terrorists.

ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday noted the importance of relations with the United States, but at the same time regretted the designation of Kashmiri group Hizbul Mujahideen as a terrorist organisation.

Speaking at a weekly media briefing, FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria said Pakistan’s relations with the US were “longstanding, multidimensional and diverse”. He underscored that both countries realised the importance of the relationship and recalled that the US leadership had on several occasions acknowledged Pakistan’s contribution to the fight against terrorism.

He made special mention of US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s call to Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on assumption of office, and Under Secretary of State Thomas Shanon and Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs and Acting Special Representative for Afghanis­tan and Pakistan Ambassador Alice Wells’ participation in the Indepen­dence Day ceremony at the Pakistan Embassy in Washington.

Spokesman suspects missing retired Col Zahir is in India

Almost as Mr Zakaria conducted the weekly briefing at the FO, US Ambassador David Hale met Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at the PM Office. The prime minister told the envoy that “Pakistan considers America as an important partner and wishes to further strengthen the existing relations”.

Designation of Hizbul Mujahideen as a ‘foreign terrorist organisation’ by the US State Department on Wednesday points towards the differences between the two countries over the uprising in India-held Kashmir — an issue which is very important to Pakistan.

The US designation noted that it was aimed at denying Hizbul Mujahideen “the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks”.

In reply to a question about the designation, the FO spokesman said the government was “disappointed” beca­use Kashmir was an internationally-recognised dispute. “The designation of individuals or groups supporting the Kashmiri right to self-determination as terrorists is completely unjustified,” he added. The US had earlier in June designated Hizbul Mujahideen’s Pakistan-based commander Syed Salahuddin as a terrorist.

Mr Zakaria said the indifference to persecution of Kashmiris by Indian security forces was “painful and not understandable”. He reminded that “gross and systematic violation of human rights of the Kashmiri people in IoK [Indian-occupied Kashmir] that have been recorded and reported by independent human rights bodies is a reality”.

Mr Zakaria said Pakistan would formally raise its concerns with the US government.

He said retired Col Zahir, who went missing while on a visit to Nepal in March, was suspected to be in India.

“There is every likelihood that he has been taken to India. He was received by an Indian national. Indian nationals were also involved in booking his hotel and ticket. The job website he applied to was also found to be operated from India,” Mr Zakaria said.

The matter had been taken up with the Indian government in May, but New Delhi was not cooperating, he regretted.

Published in Dawn, August 18th, 2017