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Civil, military leadership united on all key issues: PM Abbasi

Updated September 23, 2017

UNITED NATIONS: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has rejected the suggestion that civil-military differences in Pakistan have weakened Pakistan’s influence in the international community.

“There’s no difference between the civilian and military establishments on key national issues,” said the prime minister when asked if this ‘dispute’ had also impacted his visit to the United Nations.

“The military and civilian leaderships are united on all key issues. One country, one policy, we are all on one page,” he said. “We are all working for the country. It’s not nice to create rifts where there’s none.”

The premier completed his four-day visit to the United Nations headquarters on Friday. Hours after his address at the General Assembly, he briefed the Pakistani media on his meetings, both inside the UN and on its sidelines.

“No more do more. We did not hear it anywhere,” when asked if the Americans were still asking Pakistan to do more.

Asked about the US proposal to send a delegation to Islamabad for talks on bridging bilateral differences, Mr Abbasi said it was too early to talk about the technical details of the proposed delegation, its agenda and Pakis­tan’s expectations. “Both sides are now working on it.”

US Vice President Mike Pence had suggested sending a delegation to Islamabad during his meeting with the prime minister. The US wanted to send the delegation soon after Mr Trump’s Aug 21 policy speech but Pakistan requested rescheduling.

Mr Abbasi also talked about his brief meeting with President Trump on Tuesday night, saying it happened after his talks with Mr Pence. “President Trump pulled me aside and we talked for two or three minutes,” he said.

Responding to a question about the UN secretary general’s response to a dossier on Kashmir, Mr Abbasi said the UN had a mechanism for responding to such documents. “Our dossier on Indian atrocities in Kashmir had 250 to 300 pages and includes evidence and pictures. It will have an impact, on world leaders and the international media. But such things take time,” he said.

Asked why the international community refuses to believe Pakistan’s stance that there are no terrorist safe havens on its soil, the premier said: “It’s not because our policy has failed [as the journalist suggested]. Diplomacy is a process. We stated our position, based on facts and logic. It will have an impact,” he said.

“But bad news sells better. The claim about safe havens is juicy news. But people are accepting Pakistan’s stance as correct.”

Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, who also addressed the news briefing, pointed out that China, Russia and other nations had reacted positively to Pakistan’s position on Afghanistan. The US had some reservations but those too would be removed, he added.

The prime minister and the foreign minister both rejected the suggestion that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had postponed a meeting with Mr Abbasi earlier this week because of some differences.

They said the meeting was scheduled at 11am on Tuesday but President Trump was still addressing the General Assembly then, so both sides agreed to reschedule the meeting. “We will meet soon,” said the foreign minister, adding he met the Afghan national security adviser on Thursday and discussed several sensitive issues, including cross-border attacks.

Responding to a question, the prime minister said there’s no instability in Pakistan. “A government was removed, and returned in four days. Where’s instability? It only shows democracy’s strength. Whomever I met at the UN, praised this,” he said. “We respect courts, but want them to use the same standard, same process for all.”

The prime minister said he did not mention Indian spy Kulbhushan Jadhav in his talks at the UN because the visit was focused on other issues. “Did I take any name?” he asked.

To a question whether Pak­istan was willing to recognise India’s role in Afgha­nistan, Mr Abbasi said: “India’s political or military involvement is not acceptable to us. It has no role.”

Published in Dawn, September 23rd, 2017