WASHINGTON: Prime Minister Imran Khan’s latest statement that the militants are enemies of both Pakistan and Kashmiris is being appreciated in Washington too where a senior US official underlined Islamabad’s “sustained commitment” to countering all terrorist groups.

This appreciation came from Acting Assistant Secretary Alice G. Wells who looks after South and Central Asian affairs at the State Department.

“Applaud PM Imran Khan’s unambiguous and important statement that militants from Pakistan who would carry out violence in Kashmir are enemies of both Kashmiris and Pakistan,” she wrote in a tweet posted on Thursday afternoon.

“We agree,” she added.

Ms Wells also reminded Pakistan that its “sustained commitment to counter all terrorist groups is critical to regional stability”.

Alice Wells says Pakistan’s sustained commitment to counter all terrorist groups is critical to regional stability

On Wednesday, PM Khan warned citizens against joining the fight in held Kashmir, saying that the Indian authorities were waiting for “any excuse” to crack down on the residents in Kashmir.

“If someone from Pakistan goes to India and he thinks he will fight in Kashmir ... the first person he will be inflicting cruelty on is the Kashmiris. He will have acted as an enemy of the Kashmiris,” Mr Khan said during a speech in Torkham.

On Wednesday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted that he also has received a call from PM Khan, condemning the latest terrorist attack in Afghanistan that killed at least 48 people on Sept 17.

“As there’s precedence of Pakistan’s help in reduction of violence during past elections, I ask Pakistan to help mitigate violence in the next one. PM Khan promised help within their capacity,” Mr Ghani wrote.

Since Aug 5, when India illegally annexed held Kashmir, the prime minister has spoken on this subject on several occasions, each time reiterating Pakistan’s commitment to uprooting terrorism from its soil and assuring both Afghanistan and India that he will not allow militants to use the Pakistani territory for carrying out their activities.

It’s this “sustained commitment” that Assistant Secretary Wells mentioned in her tweet, as the US media and American lawmakers also appreciated Islamabad’s efforts to fight back militancy.

In an earlier statement, Ms Wells had also reminded Islamabad that this militancy had done more damage to Pakistan than to any other country in the region.

Last week, four key US senators sent a letter to President Donald Trump, reminding him that the “US engagement with India will be critical in providing relief for all of the people of Kashmir.”

But in the same letter, they also emphasised the need for Pakistan to stop militants from taking advantage of the current situation as this “could further destabilise Kashmir.”

In Washington, diplomatic observers are focusing on President Trump’s expected meetings with Indian and Pakistani prime ministers in Houston and New York this week. Although there has been no official announcement so far, the observers say that Mr Trump may ask the two prime ministers to reduce India-Pakistan tensions and seek a peaceful end to the Kashmir dispute.

On Sept 27, the two prime ministers address the UN General Assembly which, contrary to India’s desire, may once again draw the world’s attention to Kashmir.

Pakistan believes that the situation provides Islamabad with an opportunity to expose Indian atrocities in Kashmir and to remind the United Nations of its commitment to enable the people of Kashmir to exercise their right of self-determination.

Pakistani diplomats in both New York and Washington acknowledge that any militant activity at this stage would derail their effort to stay focused on India’s human rights violations in Kashmir.

India, on the other hand, seems eager to move the conversation to terrorism. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to play up this issue in his address to the UNGA as well.

Earlier this week, the Pakistani-American Political Action Committee brought together around 70 influential members of the Pakistani community from 18 states for a day of meetings with Democratic and Republican lawmakers in Washington.

They briefed the lawmakers on the plight of the Kashmir people. The group is [RI1] now collecting signatures from 100 US lawmakers for a letter jointly written by Republican Congressman Jim Banks and Democratic Congressman Susan Wild. Several lawmakers have already signed the bipartisan letter, which urges US Ambassador to the United Nations to highlight Indian atrocities inside the world body.

Amnesty International, India, has also launched a global campaign — “Let Kashmir Speak” — asking the Modi government to end the ‘draconian communication blackout” imposed in a strict military clampdown on millions of people in the disputed Kashmir region last month.

Published in Dawn, September 21st, 2019