ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Thursday reiterated its commitment to respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty as it dismissed reports about plans of conducting cross-border strikes on the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan’s hideouts in the neighbouring war-ravaged country.

“Pakistan is a responsible member of the United Nations, and as a responsible member of the United Nations it subscribes to and will always uphold the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, which include territorial integrity and political independence of states,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said at the weekly media briefing while responding to questions about the possibility of strikes against TTP hideouts in Afghanistan.

The speculation that Pakistan was planning to hit TTP sanctuaries across the border started after Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah in a TV interview threatened unilateral action against the terrorist group’s havens if Taliban authorities fail to act against it. The interior minister had then said that “the international laws give you the right to target those who attack you”.

The interior minister’s interview provoked an angry reaction from Afghan Taliban.

UN says Pakistan needs more than $16bn for flood recovery

Mr Sanaullah, however, at a press conference on Wednesday backtracked from his earlier statement, saying he had never said that Pakistan planned to attack Afghanistan. But, at the same time he said Pakistan would be in its right to “engage miscreants” targeting the country from across the border.

The chatter about the cross-border action gained further traction after the strongly-worded National Security Committee’s statement in which it was said that “no country will be allowed to provide sanctuaries and facilitation to terrorists and Pakistan reserves all rights in that respect to safeguard her people”.

Afghanistan was not named in the statement, but it was obvious that the message was addressed to the Afghan Taliban in view of the surge in TTP attacks in Pakistan, many of which were planned and directed from Afghanistan.

Many of TTP leaders and fighters are based in Afghanistan and they have been emboldened by the takeover of Kabul by their ideological allies Afghan Taliban last year. The failed Pakistan Army-TTP peace talks, which were started at the insistence of Afghan Taliban, enabled the insurgent group to restart its violent activities here.

The TTP had in November formally ended its ceasefire with the Army accusing it of not fulfilling its pledges.

The FO spokesperson said that Islamabad would continue to engage Afghanistan’s

de facto government through the established mechanisms to push them to rein in the TTP.

“Pakistan and Afghanistan have mechanisms of engagement and dialogue and these mechanisms are functional. We would continue to engage with Afghanistan on all matters relating to security and border management issues,” Ms Baloch said.

At the same time, she underscored that “Pakistan is both determined and capable to counter any threats to its peace and security”.

The spokesperson’s statement came in the midst of claims that aerial strikes had been carried out by PAF in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province against TTP targets.

The spokesperson, however, categorically rejected the reports as “utterly baseless and malicious”.

Flood recovery

Meanwhile, the United Nations said Geneva on Thursday that more than $16 billion is needed to help Pakistan recover from devastating floods that submerged a third of the country last year, and to better resist the impact of climate change, AFP adds.

In a bid to meet the towering needs, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will host an international conference in Geneva next week.

The one-day event will gather high-level representatives from dozens of countries, including several heads of state and government, who have yet to be named.

While not strictly a pledging conference, UN and Pakistani representatives said on Thursday that it aimed to mobilise support as the country deals rebuilds after the massive floods that left more than 1,700 people dead and affected over 30 million others.

“The needs are around $16.3bn,” Knut Ostby, the UN Development Programme’s representative in Pakistan, told reporters.

Speaking by video from Islamabad, Syed Haider Shah, who heads the UN division in Pakistan’s foreign ministry, said his country hoped to cover half that amount through its own “domestic resources”. “For the rest, we are looking at the donor support,” he added.

Published in Dawn, january 6th, 2023

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