- Says Bangladesh sabotaged SAARC summit planned to be held in Pakistan
- Says Pakistan’s decisions to join the US-led wars were not in best interest
- Foreign minister endorses an Afghan-led peace process for regional stability
ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif on Thursday said Pakistan will not take dictation from any other country in the matters relating to the national interests.
In past the national interests were not kept supreme, but now Pakistan has been making all-out efforts to protect its national interests, the foreign minister said, adding, “We will continue our efforts for peace on eastern and western borders but dictation would be not taken from others and national interests would be kept on priority.”
FM Asif said that the National Assembly speaker has also summoned a meeting of the National Security Council (NSC) on February 1, to discuss the issues relating to the national interest, including the relationship with Afghanistan.
He said Pakistan’s trade relations with Afghanistan have been affected during the last few years, besides Pakistan had also rejected Afghanistan’s request of accessing India through the Wagah Border for trade purposes.
Reaffirming Pakistan comes first, the minister said, “Pakistan pursues the policy of peaceful neighbourhood. Our focus is on maintaining and strengthening peaceful and friendly relations with all neighbouring countries, including China, Iran, Afghanistan and India, on the basis of mutual respect and equality.”
Commenting on the recent blame game that engulfs the Pakistan-US relationship, he said Pakistan’s decisions to join the US in 1989, 1990 and 9/11 were not in the best interest of the country.
Despite all that, Pakistan had contributed hugely to the regional peace and security in the recent years and had launched successful military operations against all the elements that were detrimental to the peace and security of the region.
In order to curb the cross-border terrorism, Pakistan deployed around 200,000 troops on its border with Afghanistan, the minister elaborated.
FM Asif said that Pakistan is building border management infrastructure along the Pak-Afghan border with a view to encourage bilateral trade and facilitate legal travel between the two countries, while also making the illegal border crossing difficult.
He reiterated Pakistan’s belief that peace and stability in Afghanistan is in the best interest of the region.
The foreign minister said, “In our reckoning, the only solution to the Afghan conflict lies in a politically negotiated settlement that is owned and led by Afghans. Towards this end, Pakistan, as a policy, participates in all Afghanistan-related multilateral fora to contribute constructively to the regional peace.”
In this regard, Pakistan had also participated in the first meeting of the foreign ministers of Pakistan-China-Afghanistan, in Beijing.
“The three sides agreed to take joint steps against terrorism and not to let any country, group or individual to use their territory for violence anywhere,” he added.
Khawaja Asif said, “On bilateral plane, we shared with Afghanistan a comprehensive engagement plan titled ‘Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Solidarity (APAPS)’ that envisages bilateral engagement under five working groups. We will be taking further steps in coordination with our Afghan brothers for early operationalisation of the working groups.”
The foreign minister said that Pakistan has been a home to the millions of Afghan refugees, who were forced to leave their country by persistent conflict in the war-torn country.
Pakistan offered unprecedented hospitality and support to the Afghan people and extended life amenities, like education and health, at par with the Pakistani citizens, he added.
“Over 50,000 Afghans educated in Pakistani educational institutions, and are now working in Afghanistan’s public and private sectors, fulfilling the needs of their country.”
Moreover, the foreign minister revealed that Bangladesh was involved in sabotaging a South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Conference (SAARC) head of states conference in Pakistan.
The 19th SAARC summit was a scheduled diplomatic conference, which was originally planned to be held in Islamabad, Pakistan on 15–16 November 2016. The summit was to be attended by the leaders of the eight SAARC member states and representatives of observers and guest states.
However, the summit was postponed for an indefinite period after several member states pulled out of it.
Responding to a question pertaining to relations with Bangladesh, Asif said that Pakistan does not desire any tension in relations with regional countries, including Bangladesh.
He further said that Islamabad has been making efforts for the normalisation of relations with Dhaka, even though the latter was deviating from the 1974’s tripartite agreement.
“Bangladesh is not implementing the tripartite agreement of 1974 and over the last few years several capital punishments have been executed in connection with the 1971 war,” Asif told the NA members.
Showing Pakistan’s commitment towards the regional peace, he said that the government of Pakistan has consistently called upon Bangladesh to uphold the agreement.
“Pakistan desires to move ahead but the other side will also have to reciprocate to our efforts,” he asserted.
Terming the upcoming Pak-Bangladesh consultations in Dhaka, the minister expressed hope that the sixth round of the bilateral political consultations will provide the opportunity to strengthen the relations between the two countries.