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Published On: Wed, Sep 27th, 2017

Don’t blame us now for blowback, says Pak Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif.

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imagesWASHINGTON : Pakistan is ready to work with the United States for effective management of the Afghan border to stop terrorist infiltration and to facilitate a peace settlement in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told an audience at Asia Society on Tuesday, while stressing that there was no military solution to the festering conflict in that country.

“Scapegoating Pakistan for all the Afghan ills is neither fair nor accurate,” Asif, who is attending the 72nd session of UN General Assembly, he said. “This will only help forces that we are trying to fight collectively. “Pakistan, he said, had in the past done all it could to facilitate a political settlement in Afghanistan, making sure that Pakistani soil was not used against any country. In his opening remarks, Khawaja Asif also covered Pakistan’s relations with India, the Kashmir dispute, counter-terrorism measures and the country’s economic progress.

He was welcomed by Tom Nagorski, executive vice president of Asia Society. The event was moderated by Steve Coll, an eminent American journalist who is now teaching journalism at Columbia University. Khawaja Asif said Pakistan has a “larger stake” in seeing the return of peace and stability in Afghanistan than any other country, having suffered grievously from the conflict and instability across the border.

“We are mindful of the strong desire in the U.S. to bring the ‘long war’ in Afghanistan to an end,” the minister said. “We support this objective whole heartedly and are ready to help in any way we could to achieve peace and stability in Afghanistan.” However, the minister said there were obviously clear limits to what Pakistan could do. “We cannot take responsibility for Afghanistan’s peace and security and be asked to achieve what the combined strength of some of the most powerful and richest countries could not accomplish,” he told the audience.

“Effective border management frankly is the key,” the minister said. “More needs to be done on the Afghan side of the border where terrorist elements are finding easy safe havens.”At the same time, he called the militarist approach a “folly”, saying it had failed. “We are keen to work with the US in effectively managing the Afghan border and in facilitating a peace process to the extent we can,” Asif added.”The emergence of new threats including (Da’esh) demands ever greater coordination and stronger partnerships between like-minded countries to put up a united front to counter these dark forces of exclusion and extremism.”
Responding to questions, the foreign minister said that a new initiative was need to bring India and Pakistan to the negotiating table and discuss all the issues, including the decades-old Kashmir dispute, the main source of tension between the two countries.Peace in the neighborhood was impossible to achieve unless relations with India improved, he said. Pakistan reached out to India to seek normalization of relations and resolution of all disputes through dialogue and engagement, but India did not reciprocate.”
The unprovoked violations on the LoC (Line of Control in Kashmir) and the working boundary, escalating political rhetoric, excessive use of force against unarmed civilians in the occupied Kashmir and harassment of minorities, particularly Muslims in India, do not bode well for peace, reconciliation and dialogue in South Asia.”
He said India could not wish away Kashmir, nor could it delegitimize the genuine, indigenous, unarmed struggle of the Kashmiris fighting for their right of self- determination by terming it as terrorism. Pakistan was ready to work with India to seek peaceful resolution of all disputes and to create an environment of peace and stability allowing the people of the two countries to realize their aspirations of prosperity and development, the minister said Pakistan, he said, stands for greater regional integration and connectivity.
The U.S. shares the responsibility for the rise of jihad in South Asia, Pakistan Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif told an audience in New York, adding that Islamabad’s cooperation in America’s proxy war against the Soviet Union is what brought upon the current turmoil in his country.

During an interaction  Mr. Asif accused America of using Pakistan for its strategic objectives and then discarding it.“Pakistan has stood very firmly with the U.S. in the Soviet war which was a wrong decision. It was a proxy war. We were used and discarded,” the Minister said, refusing to accept the entire blame for the rise of Islamism and terrorism in the region. “It is a collective sin or mistake that we made. You should not have left the way you did after the end of the Cold War,” he said, adding “we have made mistakes.”
The Minister said President Donald Trump’s new policy towards the region, in which he blamed Pakistan for terrorism “wasn’t surprising but disappointing.” Mr. Asif said some statements made by Mr. Trump were “blatant lies.” “…no billions of dollars have been dished out to us,” he said. “It was money which was reimbursed for the services we rendered to the USA and its allies,” he said, referring to the Coalition Support Fund (CSF) that America gives to Pakistan for the Afghan war. Pakistan receives American support under other heads also.
The Pakistan Foreign Minister said the current jihadis in his country were all nurtured by America during the war against the Soviets. “Don’t blame us for the Haqqanis or the Hafiz Saeeds. These were people who were your darlings just 20 to 30 years back.

They were being dined and wined in the White House and now you say go to hell Pakistanis because you are nurturing these people.” When the moderator suggested that they talk about the future and not the past, Mr. Asif shot back: “You cannot divorce history just to move forward. They [the militants] are a liability and it will take time for Pakistan to work its way through that.” “Saeed, LeT, they are a liability, I accept it, but give us time to get rid of them, we don’t have the assets to deal with these liabilities.”

According to him, American actions were reducing Pakistan’s ability to deal with terrorism. Mr. Asif said before Pakistan joined the war against the Soviet Union, it was a liberal country where people of all faiths and sects could live together. “Sunnis, Shias, Christians, Hindus… all could live together. They were all Pakistanis. Now people change their names ..(to protect their identity) This is a tragedy…Please don’t blame us for the tragedy that we are in…Share this agony and anguish with us,” the Minister said.

He said it was to suit the American interests in the region that Pakistan turned into promotion of jihad. “.. what we did to justify the jihad in 1980, we reversed everything…Because that suited then our friends, the Americans. In that process our ethos was destroyed and the whole generation of my country is paying a very heavy price.”
He criticised India for disengaging with Pakistan and added that the targeting of minorities in India would lead to further instability in the region. “No country has a larger stake in seeing peace return to Afghanistan than Pakistan,” but it has its limits in resolving a crisis that remains unresolved despite the intervention of the richest and the most powerful countries in the world, the Minister said. (With Agency Inputs ).

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