A day after the Trump administration announced that it was suspending its entire security assistance to Pakistan, the Foreign Office (FO) issued a statement saying the country’s officials were engaged with the US administration on “security cooperation” and were awaiting further details.
The plan to cut security assistance for Pakistan had come as the Trump administration sought more cooperation from Islamabad as part of its strategy in Afghanistan. On Thursday, US State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert had said at a news briefing in Washington that the cut-off was not permanent and only affects military assistance.
The FO’s statement, issued by Spokesperson Dr Mohammad Faisal on Friday, said that the “impact of the US’s decision on pursuit of common objectives would emerge more clearly in due course”.
“However, it needs to be appreciated that Pakistan has fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources, which has cost over $120 billion in 15 years,” read the statement. “We are determined to continue to do all it takes to secure the lives of our citizens and broader stability in the region.”
The statement also adds that US-Pakistan cooperation in fighting terrorism directly serves US national security interests as well as the larger interests of the international community.
“Through a series of major counter-terrorism operations, Pakistan cleared all these [conflicted]areas, resulting in the elimination of an organised terrorist presence leading to significant improvement in security in Pakistan.”
The statement also said Pakistan is awaiting reciprocal action from the Afghan side “in terms of clearance of vast stretches of ungoverned spaces on the Afghan side, bilateral border management, repatriation of Afghan Refugees, controlling poppy cultivation, drug trafficking and initiating Afghan-led and owned political reconciliation in Afghanistan.”
The Trump administration had announced on Thursday that its security assistance to Pakistan would be suspended until “the country proves its commitment to fight all terrorist groups operating in the region”.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said that the suspension would remain in effect until Pakistan “takes decisive action” against groups such as the Taliban, which are “destabilising the region and targeting US personnel”.
Although Pakistan “certainly has been helpful in some instances,” she had said, “they are not taking steps they need to take to fight terrorists.”
Meanwhile, official sources had told Dawn that the proposed plan does not call for “a total cut-off”; instead, it suggests a “condition and issue-based approach”.
The aid suspension will include equipment and the transfer of security-related funds, with possible exceptions for US national security reasons.
“We are still working through the numbers,” Nauert had said when asked to give an estimated impact of the suspension in dollars.
‘Special Watch List’
The FO also rejected the US placing Pakistan on a special watch list”for severe violations of religious freedom” in the country.
A statement released by FO said the placement “is a new categorisation” and that Pakistan would seek clarification from the US “regarding its rationale and implications”.
It said that “significant achievements” by Pakistan in the area of human rights have been overlooked and that “Pakistan is firmly committed to the promotion and protection of human rights including the right of religious freedom.”
“The international community is aware of the incremental steps being taken by Pakistan that have brought about positive changes on ground,” the FO said, expressing its surprise at “countries that have a well known record of systematic persecution of religious minorities” not being included in the list.
“This reflects the double standards and political motives behind the listing and hence lacks credibility.”
It reaffirmed Pakistan’s commitment to “continue to work with the international community to ensure that internationally agreed standards on religious freedom are observed in Pakistan and the broader region.”
Pakistan was placed on the list by the US State Department on Thursday.
Pakistan, however, is not on the list of 10 nations that violate religious freedom in a “systematic, ongoing, egregious” manner. That 10-state list includes Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
The US Commission on International Religious Freedom, which prepares the annual report on religious violations, has been recommending for the past several years that Pakistan be placed on the CPC list but the secretary ignored its recommendations.
Ties between Pakistan and the United States suffered a New Year setback when Trump — on the first day of the new year — accused Islamabad of being a liar, inviting a series of sharp responses from the Pakistani leadership.
At 4:12am, on Jan 1, Trump tweeted his warning to Pakistan: “The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools.”
Trump’s tweets came a few days after Inter-Services Public Relations chief Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said Pakistan had done enough and it was time for the United States and Afghanistan to do more. He was referring to accusations by the US and Afghanistan regarding the presence of militant bases in Pakistan.
His remarks during the news briefing in the last week of December were considered the strongest-ever reaction from Islamabad since Washington began alluding to the possibility of unilateral action.