Wednesday Jan 03 2018

Praise Pakistan, not taunt: Ahsan Iqbal tells US


ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Wednesday said the United States should praise Pakistan for its role and sacrifices in the war on terror rather than taunting the country. 

"The United States, instead of taunting Pakistan, should praise its role and unmatched sacrifices to protect the region from terrorists," the interior minister said while addressing a ceremony at the Police Lines in the federal capital.

The interior minister's remarks follow strong reactions from Pakistan's other political leaders after US President Donald Trump's anti-Pakistan statement on Jan 1. 

"The recent statement of US President Donald Trump is equal to making fun of Pakistan's sacrifices in the war against terrorism," he said. "No one has the right to attack Pakistan's sovereignty," added the interior minister. 

He added that Pakistan is collecting the thorns spread by the United States in the region, adding that no country has sacrificed in the war against terrorism more than Pakistan.

"We have always made efforts to establish peace in the region," he said while addressing a ceremony in the Police Lines in the federal capital. "No one has made more sacrifices than Pakistan in the war against terrorism."

He further added that terrorist groups in Afghanistan would have posed a threat to the entire region had Pakistan not conducted anti-terrorist operations.

"Pakistan has sacrificed its soldiers to protect the region from terrorists," the federal minister said. "If our efforts cannot be praised, no one has the right to declare us dishonest."

"The US has left huge piles of weapons...the country easily exited Afghanistan after Russia left the country," he said.

"We have only received problems such as drugs and terrorism for supporting the United States," said Iqbal.

The interior minister also highlighted the issue of Afghan refugees and criticised the United States for not allowing a single Syrian refugee from entering its territory, while Pakistan bore the burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees. 

In a tweet on Monday, US President Donald Trump claimed that the US had foolishly given Pakistan over $33 billion in aid over the last 15 years.

In his tweet, Trump accused Pakistan of thinking US leaders to be fools. “They give safe havens to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!”  

Pak-US ties took another turn after the finance ministry confirmed the US' decision to withhold $255 million in military aid on Tuesday. 

"The US has informed Pakistan of its decision to stop $255 million in aid," the Finance Ministry spokesperson confirmed, adding that the country was already prepared for the announcement.

"Pakistan had made alternate arrangements in advance," the spokesperson said, adding that the US decision to stop aid would not affect Pakistani's financial requirements.

A National Security Council (NSC) official had earlier released a statement confirming that the US does not plan to spend the $255 million in FY 2016 foreign military financing for Pakistan, according to a CNN report.

'US cannot dictate Pak anymore by withholding aid' 

Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir, in an interview to BBC Urdu earlier today, said it is not possible anymore for the US to dictate terms to Pakistan by withholding aid.

With regards to bilateral relations, he said the cooperation between the US and Pakistan has almost ceased.

"Today's Pakistan is a country post-Operation Zarb-e-Azb — which has been created from the sacrifices of citizens, youth, and armed forces personnel," he said, adding that instead of learning from Pakistan’s experience in the war on terrorism the US is levelling allegations against it.

'US should stop blaming others for its mistakes' 

Pakistan's permanent representative to the United Nations Maleeha Lodhi set the record straight after Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the UN, made incendiary remarks against Pakistan Tuesday night.

Islamabad's cooperation with Washington was not based on any aid consideration, but "on our national interests and principles", said Lodhi, adding "we can review our cooperation if it is not appreciated."

Lodhi remarked this while responding to Haley's comments during a news conference, where the US envoy repeated President Donald Trump’s allegations that Pakistan played a double game in its counterterrorism operations.

"We have contributed and sacrificed the most in fighting international terrorism and carried out the largest counter-terrorism operation anywhere in the world," Ambassador Lodhi asserted.