ISLAMABAD: Adviser to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on Sunday said the United States wants Pakistan to act against the Afghan Taliban but “Pakistan cannot fight Afghanistan’s war on its own soil”.
In an interview with the state-owned Pakistan Television (PTV), Aziz maintained that US authorities have the “misconception” that Pakistan is backing certain Taliban groups or the Haqqani network, while in reality Pakistan has effectively demolished their whole infrastructure during Operation Zarb-i-Azb.
“Most of the groups fighting in Afghanistan are fighting from within Afghanistan, but the perception persists that Pakistan should take action against them,” said Aziz.
Answering a question regarding the peace dialogue, the foreign affairs adviser stated that Pakistan had succeeded in forming the Quadrilateral Co-ordination Group (QCG) during last year’s Heart of Asia Conference and the group had formed a good working mechanism.
“Our viewpoint was that you (NATO and ISAF) have been fighting for the last 15 years but could not bring peace, now dialogue remains the only option, even if the Taliban cannot occupy Afghanistan they can still continue the fight for years to come.”
He, however, lamented that both Afghan authorities and Taliban are divided over the issue of talks.
“We can only bring Taliban to the negotiating table using our influence, but ultimately Afghanistan has to talk with them, they (Afghan government) should strengthen their position on the ground and secondly they should offer them (Taliban) something which they cannot gain on the battlefield. In the end, the process should be consistent,” Aziz explained.
He expressed hope and stated that if situation on the ground remains favourable for the Afghanistan government, peace talks could start.
In regards to the recent border tensions with Afghanistan, Aziz said, “A strong and regulated border is in the interest of both the countries”.
He added that he hopes visit of Afghanistan’s deputy foreign minister will help resolve the issue on Monday.
‘US wanted to contain Pakistan’s nuclear programme’
The foreign affairs adviser said during the current government’s tenure, the bilateral relations were restored on a larger scale but Pakistan has rejected US pressure on the country’s nuclear programme.
“It is a matter of our national security.”
Aziz added that when the incumbent government came to power, the US-Pakistan relations were at their lowest ebb due to Raymond Davis, Salala attack and the Abbottabad issue, but the present set-up has revived the strategic dialogue with US and urged has the US to extend cooperation with Pakistan on all levels despite a change in US priorities for the region.
“Former president Musharraf in an interview admitted providing them (US authorities) verbal understanding on such strikes in the tribal areas. During PPP’s tenure too, perhaps there collusion with US on it. The current PML-N government has taken a strong stance and gradually such strikes have decreased in frequency.
“In 2010, there were 117 drone strikes, but in 2014 there were only 12 and in this year, only three drone strikes were conducted, we raised our voice on international level on this issue and went to International Human Rights Council” said Aziz.
About China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, Aziz stated Pakistan is speedily moving forward on the projects and is aware of all internal and external conspiracies against the corridor.