• FM accuses Afghan Taliban of reneging on Doha promise to rein in terror groups
• UN chief terms ‘resilient reconstruction’ in flood-hit areas his top priority
UNITED NATIONS: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday warned the perpetrators of terrorism that Pakistan will not tolerate cross-border terrorism by the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and other militant groups, adding that Islamabad reserved the right to take direct action against them.
In an earlier statement, the minister also said Pakistan could reconsider its strategy for dealing with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers, but it could not afford to disengage with Kabul.
“Pakistan will not tolerate cross-border terrorism by the TTP or other terrorist groups, like the BLA,” FM Bhutto-Zardari said at a UN event. In an indirect reference to India, the foreign minister said Pakistan had evidence to prove that such groups were “receiving financial and other support from hostile quarters”.
“We reserve the right to take direct action against them,” the foreign minister told the participants who had gathered to honour the victims of the Dec 16, 2014, terrorist attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar.
The TTP militants, who had come from Afghanistan, killed 149 people — including 132 schoolchildren — in one of the worst terrorist attacks in Pakistan.
While raising the issue of resumption of attacks by TTP and other militant groups inside Pakistan, a journalist asked the foreign minister at a Thursday afternoon news briefing here if Islamabad would consider disengaging with Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers because they were allowing them to carry out the attacks.
“I can’t wish the Taliban away or Afghanistan away. They are a reality, and they are on my border,” he replied, but “the modes and ways in which we are engaging, particularly within the Pakistani context, and as far as the TTP is concerned, perhaps that can be reconsidered, as far as the strategy is concerned”.
However, in his address to the APS commemoration event, the foreign minister said that Kabul’s Taliban rulers had failed Pakistan’s “hope and expectation” that Kabul’s new authorities “would be able to convince or constrain the TTP from conducting cross-border terrorist attacks.”
He recalled that the Afghan Taliban pledged to do so in Doha, where they signed a peace agreement with the United States and also in subsequent declarations. “But endeavors towards this end appear to have failed. The TTP seems to have been emboldened to declare a war against Pakistan. Its attacks have intensified,” he noted.
The foreign minister then directly blamed India for encouraging TTP terrorists for attacking Pakistan.
“Our intelligence agencies have solid proof of financial and organizational support and direction provided to the TTP by the agents of our eastern neighbor and by elements of the previous government in Kabul,” he said.
He said Pakistan had shared a comprehensive dossier with the secretary-general and the UN Security Council “containing concrete evidence of such external support to the TTP and other terrorist groups operating against Pakistan”.
The chief Pakistani diplomat hoped that the UN’s counter-terrorism machinery will address the threat of terrorism that presently emanates from Afghanistan and adjacent regions in a comprehensive and effective manner.
“We need to eliminate the safe havens of these terrorists; to cut-off the sources of their financing and sponsorship; and to target and hold accountable individuals and entities responsible for the terrorist attacks or for sponsoring and financing such attacks,” he said.
Reconstruction his top priority: UN chief
On the sidelines of the G77 ministerial conference in New York, the foreign minister met UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday evening.
The UN chief assured the Pakistani leader that “resilient reconstruction” of flood-hit areas in his country was his “top priority.”
Mr Guterres also reaffirmed “full UN support” to the ongoing humanitarian work in the country.
Mr Bhutto-Zardari conveyed his appreciation to the secretary general for his “solidarity” and massive support to Pakistan in the wake of the devastating floods in the country, and for announcing the International Conference on Climate Resilient Pakistan in Geneva on Jan 9, 2023.
The minister sought the UN’s continued cooperation to secure the participation of key donors, development institutions, and the private sector in the conference to encourage them to support Pakistan’s comprehensive plan and specific project proposals.
Published in Dawn, December 17th, 2022