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No organised presence of IS in Pakistan, says FO

Updated September 29, 2017

ISLAMABAD: The For­eign Office on Thursday said that there was no organised presence of the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Pakistan.

During his weekly press briefing, when FO spokesman Nafees Zakaria’s attention was drawn to media reports about hoisting of an IS flag in the federal capital, he said “media reports do not warrant any response”.

The spokesman claimed that key objectives set out for Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi’s visit to the US to attend the UN General Assembly session had been achieved by and large and the visit was a success.

He said the prime minister’s address to the UNGA, meetings and other activities of the PM, foreign minister and foreign secretary on the sidelines afforded an opportunity to present Pakistan’s perspective on the prevailing security situation in the region, opportunities and challenges in the wake of the evolving regional scenario, and developments and achievements of Pakistan on the economic and security fronts.

The meetings with the US leadership on the sidelines of UNGA session helped in allaying misperception about the relations and bridging gaps, he said.

“What emerged from these interactions was the desire on both sides to engage with each other. Given this backdrop, you should be expecting visits in the near future from both sides”, the spokesman told journalists.

The opportunity was also availed to forcefully highlight the Kashmir dispute, grave human rights violations in the Valley at the hands of Indian occupation forces and Indian involvement in terrorism, terror financing, subversive activities and use of Afghan soil to launch terrorist attacks with the help of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and other terrorist outfits based in Afghanistan, he said. The sideline meetings were instrumental in dispelling impressions created with regard to Pak-US relations and Pak-Afghan ties, bridging gaps, and reaffirmation of similarity of views on the situation in this region and how to tackle the challenges.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May, in her address to the UNGA, made it a point to recognise and mention Pakistan’s sufferings due to terrorism, the spokesman said.

To a question about India seeking enhanced role in Afghanistan, including military ventures, he said over the years New Delhi had played the role of spoiler in Afghanistan. Under the garb of development assistance India has used Afghan soil to carry out subversive activities inside Pakistan. RAW, the spy agency of India, has developed a clandestine nexus with terrorist groups based in Afghanistan, like the TTP, JuA, and East Turkestan Islamic Movement etc. These groups are being used to foment unrest and orchestrate terrorist attacks in Pakistan and other regional countries. “We have evidence to this effect, which was shared with the US, the UN secretary general and also with the Afghan authorities,” said.

Mr Zakaria said Indian-sponsored terrorist groups in Afghanistan and their directed terrorist activities inside Pakistan were no secret now. “You must have seen the Hindustan Times story few days ago in which it was argued that despite pressure from the US, India won’t sever its ties with the TTP, JuA and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan, which the RAW uses to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan”, he said.

He ruled out possibility of Pakistan’s nuclear assets falling into hands of terrorists, saying the country’s command and control system as well as its nuclear security regime remained robust and were at par with the international standards.

“There has never been a single nuclear security incident in the country. Pakistan also works closely with the international community and the International Atomic Energy Agency in the areas of nuclear safety and security. In fact, Pakistan is providing nuclear security training to regional countries at its Centre of Excellence for nuclear security,” Mr Zakaria said.

He was responding to a question about a recent report of the Federation of American Scientists alleging that Pakistan’s nuclear assets suffered risk of falling into terrorists’ hands, and once again doubting Pakistan’s ability to safeguard its nuclear arsenal.

Published in Dawn, September 29th, 2017