Pakistan will no more sacrifice its interest for the sake of the United States

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ISLAMABAD – Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif said on Thursday that Pakistan will no more sacrifice its interest for the sake of the United States.

Talking to the media here, Asif said that Pakistan will frame its foreign policy keeping in view the national interest. “We will no more sacrifice our interest for the sake of the US . We will see what suits us (Pakistan). We cannot formulate a foreign policy for others’ benefit,” he said. The minister said if the US wanted peace in the region, it should review its South Asia policy.

Asif said the tensions and security challenges facing his country stem from Islamabad’s policies of siding with Washington in the Afghan resistance against Soviet occupation of the neighbouring country and joining the US-led military coalition that invaded Afghanistan after the September 2001 attacks in the US .

But Pakistan, the minister said, is in the process of correcting its foreign policy to wanting to be “close to friends in the region. “But we will, in no way, sacrifice our national interests and become an American proxy, or safeguard American interests like we did in the past,” he stressed.

“The effects of the 80s and the Musharraf era still exist, Pakistan will not make the same mistakes now to keep American interests above its own interests,” he said.

This month, the Financial Action Task Force discussed a US-sponsored resolution to place Pakistan on the terrorist financing watch-list. The FATF’s official statement after the meeting did not mention Pakistan but the foreign office confirmed this week that Pakistan will be included in the watch-list in June this year.

Last week, US Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Council Senior Director for South and Central Asia Lisa Curtis visited Islamabad and held meetings with Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua, Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal and National Security Advisor Nasser Khan Janjua. They discussed the overall Pak-US ties and the Afghanistan issue.

Before the FATF shock, the US in January suspended the security assistance to Pakistan targeting the Coalition Support Fund. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert had said Pakistan will be able to receive the suspended funding if it took ‘decisive actions’ against the Haqqani Network and the Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan claimed it was not dependent on US aid for its war on terror.

The foreign ministry said Pakistan had fought the war against terrorism largely from its own resources “which has cost over $120 billion in 15 years.” Islamabad argued the money it had received from the US was mainly reimbursements for supporting US-led coalition forces after they invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

Pakistan estimated receiving at least $ 1.5 billion under the CSF during 2017-18. The US only disbursed $ 550 million during the last fiscal year ending July despite committing $ 880 million. USPresident Donald Trump claimed to give Pakistan $ 33 billion in aid. The US had sanctioned $33.4 billion for reimbursements to Pakistan during the past 15 years, 44 percent of which was on account of anti-terror services.

Asif welcomed the dialogue offer made by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to the Taliban. “We support the dialogue process and have always believed there is no military solution to the Afghanistan issue,” he said.

The minister said as a peace-loving country, Pakistan backed all efforts to promote talks to resolve the issues between the countries and the factions. “After all we have to settle for dialogue so why go for war. The use of force has failed in Afghanistan. There is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. Dialogue is the best option,” he said.

Asif pledged to extend any help “wholeheartedly” to further the peace effort between the warring parties. “President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of peace talks to the Taliban is a considerate development,” he said. “The Taliban are a political entity, a political force within Afghanistan because it is their country. So, it is a good move and a healthy sign emerging in Afghanistan [towards promoting peace].”

He pledged that “any assistance, any help in this regard from Pakistan” will be “wholeheartedly” given to Afghans, if required. “And if they would like to utilise any other platform, a trilateral, or a quadrilateral, or if they would need help from neighbouring, or regional countries, everyone will be ready to do so,” Asif added.

“The presence of foreign forces in Afghanistan has not served any purpose, said Asif. “It has not brought peace to this region, rather the situation has become much more grave than it was 20 years back.”

He said Pakistan, together with China, Iran, Russia and Turkey, is making efforts to promote a regional solution to the Afghan conflict and Ghani’s offer to the Taliban is in line with those efforts. Asif insisted that neighbouring and regional countries have “direct stakes” in whatever is happening in Afghanistan.

“Our stakes are much, much higher, rather these stakes are existential stakes as compared to America, who [is]remote-controlling things in Afghanistan,” Asif asserted.

On the ceasefire violations by India along the Line of Control and the Working Boundary, he said Pakistan army had been giving ‘befitting response’ to the Indian firing. “It seems that India is not ready to negotiate,” he added.

The minister said the Indian atrocities in Kashmir must end, adding the international community was not taking any action into the matter. “The world must not turn a blind eye to the bloodshed in Kashmir. India is involved in worst human rights violations in Held Kashmir,” he said.

Earlier, addressing a seminar in connection with China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the foreign minister pointed out that under the corridor project, special economic zones will be set up across the country which will benefit the investors.

Asif said that several coal-based power projects will be completed this year, while work on Gwadar airport will soon be started.

In his remarks, Chinese Ambassador to Pakistan, Yao Jing, said both the private sector and the investors were now contributing to the CPEC.

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