ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of providing its military bases to the United States for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi used the opportunity of winding up a discussion on “Israel’s systematic assault against Palestinian worshippers in Harm-al-Sharif (Al Aqsa mosque) during the holy month of Ramazan” to reject as unfounded the reports to this effect and made it clear that the government would never provide military bases to the US, nor would allow drone attacks inside Pakistan.
The remarks came following US President Joe Biden administration’s acknowledgement that it was in talks with several Central Asian neighbours of Afghanistan to examine where it can reposition troops to prevent the landlocked country from once again becoming a terrorist base for groups like Al Qaeda.
Senate unanimously adopts resolution condemning Israeli aggression against Palestinians
But US officials have not named Pakistan, which shares a nearly 2,600km border with Afghanistan, nor have they commented on media speculation that the subject of military bases may be under bilateral discussions.
The foreign minister’s remarks also came after a Pentagon official said Pakistan had allowed the US military to use its airspace and given it ground access so that it could support its presence in Afghanistan.
David F. Helvey, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Affairs, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the US would continue its conversation with Pakistan because it had a critical role in restoring peace to Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Qureshi, while responding to the concern of a lawmaker that if civil war broke out in Afghanistan after US pullout it would have implications for Pakistan, said the country favoured a responsible, orderly withdrawal. “Because what we were fearing and we still fear and are concerned that a vacuum created in Afghanistan can drag or suck the country back into the decade of 1990s. There could be anarchy and God forbid a civil war,” he said.
About the Palestine issue, the foreign minister said the first goal of ceasefire had been achieved, but this was not the solution. He said the United Nations secretary general had been asked to play a role in revival of the peace process. He said a permanent solution to the problem was sine qua non for durable peace in the Middle East. He said the US should also play its diplomatic role in this regard.
Mr Qureshi said the president of the UN General Assembly would arrive in Pakistan on Thursday on a visit on his invitation.
The house unanimously adopted a resolution condemning the unprovoked war of aggression unleashed by Israel against defenseless Palestinians in occupied territories.
The house noted that crimes committed by Israel against the people of Palestine included war crimes, since Israeli planes bombed non-military targets like residential complexes and media offices, as well as crimes of deliberately committing sacrilege of Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.
“The Senate of Pakistan also expresses its deep resentment at the hypocrisy and double standards of various countries whose condemnation is missing, but which still talk of human rights, despite being complicit with the aggressor. We reject any attempt to equate the aggressor [Israel] with the victims of aggression [Palestinian people] and are very clear, this is not a conflict. This is a one-sided war,” the resolution reads.
The house urged Israel to immediately halt its aggression against Palestinian people, end human rights abuses, ensure compliance with principles of international human rights law, respect the Palestinians’ right to life, adequate housing, freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and protest, and freedom of religion or belief, and stop forced evictions and settlement construction aimed at demographic change, in violation of international law.
It also called for establishment of an international independent protection mechanism for Palestinian people and sought to ensure accountability for all past and present grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity by Israel.
Published in Dawn, May 26th, 2021