- Prime minister reiterates no safe sanctuaries for terrorists in Pakistan
- PM says meeting with US diplomats ‘very constructive’
ISLAMABAD: The days of Pakistan depending on the US to meet its military and other requirements are over, Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Sunday told Arab News during an interview.
The world should recognise Pakistan’s efforts in fighting the “world’s war” on terror, he said.
“If one source dries up, we have no option but to go to another source. It may cost more, it may consume more resources, but we have to fight that war, and that’s what we emphasised to all the people that we met,” Abbasi added.
“Any sanctions or restraints… put on our systems only degrades our efforts to fight terror, and it affects the whole equation in this region,” he said.
“We have major US weapons systems in our military, but we’ve also diversified. We have Chinese and European systems. Recently, for the first time, we inducted Russian attack helicopters.”
Speaking about his meetings on the sidelines of United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), he said that meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence was “very constructive,” adding that there was “also a small interaction with President (Donald) Trump at his reception”.
“There was no meeting scheduled (with Trump). In fact, the meeting with Vice President Pence wasn’t scheduled. It was at their request,” Abbasi said. “This was a visit to the UN to basically present Pakistan’s case at the General Assembly.”
The “candid” discussion with Pence was essential for official engagements in the future because when Trump’s policy statement on South Asia came out, there were “a lot of apprehensions on what it meant, and what it meant for Pakistan-US relations,” Abbasi said.
“I think we moved substantially forward in that direction. Whatever concerns they (the US) have, we’ve shown our willingness to address those concerns.”
Abbasi said: “We can categorically state that we don’t provide any sanctuaries to anybody. The bottom line is… today we have a common objective: To destroy terror and bring peace to Afghanistan.”
Speaking about Afghanistan, he said, “We’re partners in the war on terror, and that’s what we emphasised. We emphasised to everybody we met there (at the UNGA) that nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan,” added Abbasi.
“The reality today is that much of the area bordering Pakistan is controlled by the Taliban. The people we’re fighting in Pakistan today, their sanctuaries are in Afghanistan, their leadership is living there, the planning is done there, the logistical bases are there, and they regularly cross the border and attack our installations. We recently had a suicide attack on the deputy chairman of the Senate. He survived, but 22 people were killed. It was by an Afghan national who had crossed the border to attack his convoy deep inside Pakistan,” Abbasi said.
“We’re fencing our border. We’re open to Afghan liaison officers. We have Afghan refugees here. So if anything is pinpointed and the intelligence is provided, we take action,” he added. “Whatever happens in Afghanistan affects us. Whatever happens here affects them.”
Speaking about India’s role in regional stability, the prime minister said that Pakistan wants peace in Afghanistan via a solution that “is owned and led by the Afghans,” said Abbasi, warning that Washington’s desire to include India would be detrimental.
“We don’t believe that injecting India into the Pakistan-US relationship will help resolve anything, especially in Afghanistan, where we don’t see any role for India. India has a relationship with the US. That is between them and the US.”
Pakistan wants an “equal relationship or partnership with the US, like every other nation,” he said.
It wishes to work with the US “to resolve regional” and “global issues… ranging from the economy to nuclear” matters.
Speaking about the cost of the war on terror, he said that Pakistan has fought “a very hard and vicious” war on terror, adding that “200,000 of our troops are deployed. We have 6,500 shaheeds (martyrs) in the army. We have 21,000 of our citizens who’ve been killed, including police personnel. Almost 35,000 people have been seriously injured”.
He added: “Nobody has fought a bigger war on terror than we have, with our own resources. Even the most conservative economic estimates of Pakistan’s losses are over $120 billion. It has been a very difficult war, but our army has performed very well.”
Speaking about governance, he said, “It’s a complex job,” adding that governing a country with a ballooning population of over 207 million is no walk in the park.
“Pakistan is one of the largest countries in the world… It’s a nuclear power. We have a challenging neighbourhood. There’s a war on terror in the country. There are issues in Afghanistan. There’s a very large foreign military presence there… We have a neighbour to the east with which we’ve had several wars. They (India) are also a nuclear power. We have a dispute. They occupied Kashmir, which is our territory… The economic challenge is (also) there.”
“Whatever happens, elections will happen on time and in early August. Pakistan will, God willing, have a new government. Hopefully, the same party (PML-N) will come to power,” he added.