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PRESIDENT Donald Trump fumes at Pakistan, saying it thinks US leaders are fools.
PRESIDENT Donald Trump fumes at Pakistan, saying it thinks US leaders are fools.

ISLAMABAD / WASHINGTON: Ties between Pakistan and the United States, strained for the past several weeks, suffered a New Year setback on Monday when President Donald Trump accused Islamabad of being a liar, inviting a series of sharp responses from the Pakistani leadership.

In his first message, directed at a foreign nation in the new year, the president pledged to change the nature of a relationship he claimed was based on “nothing but lies and deceit”.

“We are MAKING AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, and much faster than anyone thought possible,” he wrote.

At 4:12am, on Monday, Mr Trump tweeted his warning to Pakistan: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”

Foreign minister says Islamabad will not do more after US president calls it ‘liar’

He said: “They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”

The message was retwee­ted and liked by tens of thousands of his followers.

It took only an hour for Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif to come up with a rejoinder. “We will respond to President Trump’s tweet shortly Inshallah...Will let the world know the truth...difference between facts & fiction,” he tweeted.

The timing of Mr Trump’s tweet — at 4 in the morning and more than 12 hours after his last tweet — has caused much speculation in the US capital, with some linking it to reports of a further escalation in India-Pakistan tensions.

In a related development reflecting on worsening ties, the US ambassador in Pakistan was summoned to the Foreign Office and a strong protest over Mr Trump’s remarks was lodged with him, informed sources told Dawn.

Mr Trump’s tweets come a few days after Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan had done enough and it was time for the United States and Afghanistan to do more. He was referring to accusation by the US and Afghanistan regarding the presence of militant bases in Pakistan.

He urged the US to “check India’s anti-Pakistan role not only from inside of Afghanistan but also through the enhanced and increased ceasefire violations along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary”.

His news briefing last week was considered the strongest-ever reaction from Islamabad since Washington began alluding to the possibility of unilateral action.

According to sources, Foreign Minister Asif soon after Mr Trump’s tirade against Pakistan held a meeting with Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to discuss the situation.

In an interview with a private news channel in the evening, Khawaja Asif said Pakistan had already done enough. “We have already said no more [to the Americans] so Trump’s no more is of no importance now,” he added.

“We are ready to publicly provide details of the US aid that has been received by the country,” said the minister, adding that Mr Trump was disappointed with the US defeat in Afghanistan and was accusing Pakistan in retaliation.

He suggested the US should try and negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan instead of using the armed forces.

Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan in a separate tweet said: “Pak as anti-terror ally has given free to US: land & air communication, military bases & intel cooperation that decimated Al-Qaeda over last 16 yrs, but they have given us nothing but invective & mistrust. They overlook cross-border safe havens of terrorists who murder Pakistanis.”

Khawaja Asif said: “The claim by Trump regarding the funds, if we account for it, they include reimbursements too for the services rendered by Pakistan.”

“Our land, roads, rail and, other different kinds of services were used for which we were reimbursed. A proper audit took place for the reimbursements,” he said. He asked the US to hold accountable those who failed in Afghanistan.

He also said that only Afghanistan’s neighbours can find a peaceful solution for regional peace and security.

Asked as to what would be Islamabad’s response if the US carried out drone strikes in Pakistan’s settled areas, he said: “The country will defend its sovereignty”.

He said the foreign policy direction is dictated only by the national interest.

A senior military official when contacted said it was time for a united front and single national narrative. He recalled that the ISPR chief in his presser on Dec 28 had said, “we are receiving threats but once it comes to Pakistan we all are one. No more do more for anyone. We fought two imposed wars”.

The ISPR spokesperson had clarified that the Coalition Support Fund, received from the US, is reimbursement of money spent for operations in support of the coalition for regional peace. “Had we not supported, Al Qaeda would not have been defeated,” he had stated.

Another source said the federal cabinet will hold an emergent meeting today (Tuesday) to ponder over the situation arising out of the harsh remarks. A national response is expected after the cabinet meeting to be chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi.

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2018