ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Thursday it was ready to work with the United States on its concerns about the fight against militancy, but cautioned it against making Pakistan a scapegoat for its failures in Afghanistan.
The statement indicated that Islamabad was willing to come out of the latest denouement in relations with Washington that started with last month’s drone attack on a tribal jirga in North Waziristan and forced Pakistan to pull out of March 26 trilateral ministerial meeting with the US and Afghanistan.
At her weekly briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua rejected the White House assessment of Pakistan’s counter-insurgency operations and said that divergences on combating militancy in the region warranted purposeful Pak-US-Afghanistan engagement to deal with the challenges in the conflict.
“There is undoubtedly recognition of the need for genuine and honest engagement between Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US to overcome what are perceived to be common challenges and shared goals,” the spokesperson said, adding that Pakistan would be engaging with the US on these issues.
Underlining the need for Pakistan, US and Afghanistan to engage with each other at both bilateral and trilateral levels, Ms Janjua noted that the three countries needed to be “on the same page to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan”.
While indicating that a Pak-US rapprochement was in the works, the spokesperson placed special emphasis on keeping Pakistan’s national interest “foremost”.
“We are building our bilateral relations with the US on principles of equality, respect, partnership, mutual interest and mutual trust.”
Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir is likely to travel to Washington later this month to discuss contentious matters that have strained the relationship.
The military and intelligence leadership of both countries is also engaging separately to discuss problems in their cooperation that was always taken as the foundation of Pak-US ties.
It was, however, quite evident that Pakistani leadership was displeased with the White House report submitted to Congress earlier this week, which made a bleak appraisal of Pakistan’s progress in its fight against Taliban insurgents in tribal areas and had said that it (Pakistan) lacked a sound strategy to fight militancy.
The report had further alleged that Pakistan’s poor planning for ‘hold’ and ‘build’ stages of its military operations was enabling militants to make a comeback in areas from where they had been driven out.
The US, in an effort to complement Pakistan’s counter-insurgency operations, is said to have provided billions of dollars in the shape of military training, hardware and civilian aid programmes and has been particularly vexed over poor results.
Ms Janjua rejected this perception and said: “Pakistan has a clear strategy in dealing with these and other issues and in doing so will solely be guided by Pakistan’s national interest.
“I would like to emphatically state that we do not entirely share the US assessment,” she said, adding that references related to Pakistan in the report were “unwarranted”.
Pakistan, she noted, was itself capable of evaluating its strengths and weaknesses in the fight against militants and the strategy being pursued by coalition forces in Afghanistan.