ISLAMABAD: Ruling out any surrender before the US or a compromise on the country’s sovereignty, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif told the Senate on Wednesday that Washington had handed over a list of 75 wanted terrorists.
Briefing the upper house on the recent visit by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his statement about certain “specific requests”, the minister said that many of the individuals on the list were not alive, while others were shadow Taliban governors in different provinces of Afghanistan.
He said that while the Haqqanis were on top of the list, it did not contain the name of a single Pakistani.
Foreign minister says Afghan policy should be drawn up by politicians, not generals defeated in Afghanistan
Mr Asif said Pakistan and Afghanistan had also exchanged lists of wanted terrorists. “We have given them a list of about 100 individuals, while theirs contains 70-75 names,” he remarked.
In his candid remarks, the foreign minister asserted that Pakistan could not be blamed for American failures in Afghanistan.
During Secretary Tillerson’s visit, he said, it was impressed upon the US side that Washington’s policy in the region had been hammered out by generals who had failed in Afghanistan, but were not ready to admit to the ground realities.
“Let this policy be framed by politicians and policy-makers over there,” he remarked.
He said it was also pointed out that the generals would never allow framing of a policy wherein they had to concede their humiliation.
He also talked about the unprecedented ceasefire violations occurring on the eastern border over the past one year, and regretted that Afghanistan was playing the role of a facilitator for India.
He said there was a 648km-long border with Afghanistan where not a single soldier or border security personnel were deployed on the Afghan side.
“That area is used for the planning and execution of terrorist activities. We also told them that 45pc of Afghanistan is under Taliban control, which is sufficient for them to establish sanctuaries to plan and execute terrorist activities. They do not need Pakistani territory for that purpose,” he remarked.
He said the compromises made by military dictators of the past haunted Pakistan today, adding that had the country not volunteered a role in the so-called Afghan jihad, Pakistan would not be mired in this situation.
After the blunder of becoming a proxy in the Afghan war, another massive compromise was made following 9/11. “We actually became bounty hunters for the US. They used to give us lists and it was for us to catch them and hand them over to the US, irrespective of their innocence or involvement in a crime,” he regretted.
He said the problems Pakistan was facing today were due to the actions of the ruling elite, which had agreed to compromise on national interest to prolong their rule.
He said that unlike past regimes, the present government had neither surrendered nor succumbed to any pressure in the wake of US president Donald Trump’s fiery speech of Aug 21.
Referring to his recent US visit, he said that in both public and private interactions, there had been no hint that could be presumed as a readiness to compromise on Pakistan’s national interests.
“We have not succumbed to the threat made by Trump from Fort Myer. We stood tall and will keep the posture before any power of the world,” he declared.
Referring to Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani’s remarks about Mr Tillerson behaving like a viceroy, he said “We do not accept him as a viceroy”.
He said the security arrangements for Mr Tillerson’s visit to Pakistan were as they would be in any civilised country. The situation was entirely different from his visit to Afghanistan, where President Ashraf Ghani had to come to Bagram airbase to meet the US secretary of state.
He pointed out that the top US diplomat did not feel safe leaving the airbase he had landed at in a country where the forces of 16 nations had been deployed for some 18 years.
That there had been a visible change in the frequency of drone attacks inside Pakistan, seen by Islamabad as a violation of its sovereignty, was a clear manifestation of the fact that Pakistan had cleared its areas of people who used to be targets for US drones.
He regretted that the US wanted to blame its failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan. “We are ready to help them, but will not become their proxy,” he remarked, stressing that a strong, stable and peaceful Afghanistan was in Pakistan’s interests.
Mr Asif claimed that decisions taken in the past were subservient to the will of the US because those rulers would look to Washington for their survival and the perpetuation of their rule. The current government, he said, derived its strength from parliament and the people who had voted it into power.
He pointed out that this was the first time that all the institutions of Pakistan spoke to the top US official under one roof, adding that none of them was apologetic. He said the US was told that Pakistan would act on any actionable intelligence provided.
He said the US was told that a military solution had failed in Afghanistan and now it was time to try a political solution.
The foreign minister said no accusations were traded in the meeting, rather the US had made a request for cooperation and said that Pakistan had highlighted how the role of countries such as Iran, China and Russia was “absolutely indispensable” for peace in the region.
Published in Dawn, October 26th, 2017