Pakistan is not a terrorist haven, says defense minister

Khurram Dastagir

:: Pakistan has rejected claims that it harbors militant groups responsible for terrorism and extremism in South Asia.

Defense Minister Khurram Dastagir said there were no militant havens in Pakistan, and claimed that 40 percent of Afghanistan was controlled by terrorists. “Pakistan has taken action against all groups on its soil and only the remnants of some are left,” he said.

The minister was responding to a statement on regional security concerns issued on Monday at the BRICS summit in Xiamen, China, attended by delegates from Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The statement identified several militant groups responsible for terrorism, and said some were based in Pakistan. Aside from the Taliban, they included the Haqqani network, considered a principal threat to US efforts to restore stability in Afghanistan; Jaish-e-Mohammad, a militant group fighting Indian forces in Kashmir; and Lashkar-e-Taiba, accused of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan itself was a victim of terrorism, said foreign ministry spokesman Nafees Zakaria. “Many terrorist groups based in the region, some in Afghanistan, such as the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and its associates like Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a splinter group from TTP, have been responsible for extreme acts of violence against Pakistani people.”

Zakaria said Pakistan supported the BRICS statement on “the presence of groups like Daesh, the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan operating from ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan, which pose a threat to peace and security in the region.”

He said Pakistan was concerned “at the rise of extremist ideologies and intolerance in the region, encouraging social stratification and systematic targeting of minorities.”

An intelligence official, speaking to Arab News on condition of anonymity, dismissed the BRICS statement. “With an ongoing security operation, Rudd-ul Fassad, eliminating existing and potential threats, how can we be backing the same elements we are fighting? Share information if you believe the terrorists are here and we’ll take you to those locations.”

Pakistan provides the locations of terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan, but neither the Afghans nor the Americans act on the information, the official said. “Nearly every drone strike conducted by the US was shared, supported and approved by us because it’s our common goal to fight terrorists, but it’s not in their interest to go after militants harming our interest.” He said the international community had double standards and was trying to isolate Pakistan.

Indian foreign ministry official Preeti Saran said the phrasing of the declaration was a “very important development,” which recognized that the world could not have double standards when dealing with militant attacks.

“You cannot have good and bad terrorists, and it is a collective action,” she said. “Members of the BRICS countries have themselves been victims of terrorism, and I would say that what has come of today acknowledges the fact that we must work collectively in handling this.”

The BRICS declaration identifies “the same militants that the UN Security Council has declared a cause of concern for regional stability,” said foreign policy analyst Tariq Peerzada. “Pakistan is already concerned but will remain unaffected by this statement, which uses the word violence rather than terrorism to describe the militant activity.”

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi is chairing a conference in Islamabad to review its foreign policy in light of Washington’s new strategy on Afghanistan and South Asia, announced last month by Donald Trump, which Pakistan views as unfavorable to its relations with the US. The conference concludes on Thursday.

Khurram Dastagir

Khurram Dastagir

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