NEW YORK: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said Pakistan has a fully secure, reliable and robust nuclear command and control system under a full civilian oversight.
He was responding to questions after a talk at the Council for Foreign Relations.
He said Pakistan is a responsible nuclear state and has a track record of ensuring that its nuclear assets do not fall into wrong hands.
Responding to a question about the country’s civilian nuclear power programme, he said the government wants to diversify and utilise available resources to meet the energy needs of the country.
“Pakistan has developed short-range nuclear weapons to counter the cold start doctrine adopted by the Indian army,” he said.
He said periodic meetings are held and a regular review is undertaken to ensure the safety and security of the country’s nuclear assets.
PM Abbasi said the issue of cross-border incursions from Afghanistan is a grave one and recalled that five Afghans have been arrested in the recent past for launching attacks inside Pakistan’s territory. He said Pakistan has proposed to Afghanistan joint patrols along the border and pointed out that was not a single Afghan soldier present at an almost 350 km long border stretch.
He dismissed the Afghan allegations that Pakistan is a safe haven for terrorist. He mentioned the large-scale military operation launched by the Pakistan army against the terrorists and said over 200,000 of its troops have been on the hunt for any miscreants.
He emphasized that without proper border management, the issue of cross-border terrorism would be hard to control and described this to be the reason for Pakistan’s decision to fence the border. The PM mentioned the presence of over three million Afghan refugees in the country.
He said Pakistan is open to any suggestions that would bring peace to Afghanistan.
He stated that the Taliban were Afghan nationals and have nothing to do with Pakistan. “It is for the Afghans to find a way to deal with them.”
When asked about relations with the US, PM Abbasi said, “we do not want these to be Afghan-centric”.
“Pakistan wants to move forward and remain engaged with the US,” he said about his meeting with the US Vice President Mike Pence. He, however, made it clear that there is a need to understand the sacrifices Pakistan has given to make the world a safer place to live in.
He mentioned the high death toll the country had to bear, besides the loss of $120 billion due to its role in the fight against terrorism. He said Pakistan did not even bill the US for the use of its air and land routes, as it sincerely believed in defeating terrorism.
He said very little payments have been made to Pakistan in terms of military assistance, however, he was appreciative of the role of the USAID in undertaking several projects in health and social sectors in Pakistan.
“The world needs to understand that it is the only country that is fighting terror on the ground,” he added.
When asked whether his country would allow US bases in Pakistan, Prime Minister Abbasi said all states should respect the sovereignty of others and added, “I believe there is no need for any bases anymore.” He said Pakistan cannot condone drone strikes to any targets in Pakistan.
To a question about the release of Dr Afridi, who was arrested after the US raid on a hideout to take out Osama bin Laden, he said he was in detention and under trial for violating the laws of the land. He denied that he had any health issues and said it was his duty that if he had some information, he should have shared it with Pakistani security forces.
The prime minister said Pakistan desires equal treatment by the United States of America towards both Pakistan and India.
Responding to a question, he said the Indian aggression along the Line of Control (LoC) was aimed at diverting attention from its atrocities against the civilian population of Jammu and Kashmir. He said the Indian Occupational Forces were engaged in “unbelievable atrocities” and “crimes against humanity”.
He said Pakistan desires to engage with India on the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir. “We want normal relations with India, on the basis of trust and respect with India,” Abbasi said.
To another question, he said, “Pakistan does not foresee any political or military role of India in Afghanistan.” He, however, added that India already has trade with Afghanistan.
When asked to compare his political party with that of Imran Khan’s PTI, he said the PML-N believes in the sanctity of ballot, and that a political change needs to be brought through ballot and not by street power. He said only the people of Pakistan will take a decision next year regarding who they want their leader to be.