Haqqani network sanctuaries completely destroyed in Pakistan: Khawaja Asif

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has completely destroyed the sanctuaries of the Haqqani network in the country, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said.

Speaking to media, the foreign minister said Pakistan had repeatedly been the target of allegations by the United States regarding the presence of the Haqqani network. However, he clarified that his country had never denied the possibility of an ‘unorganised presence’ of the terrorist organisation.

“We do not totally reject that allegation. We say that there is no organised presence [of the Haqqani network] in our country. We have destroyed their entire organised presence, including their sanctuaries, safe havens or areas under their control, either in North Waziristan, South Waziristan, Khyber, or Bajaur agency,” said the foreign minister, inviting US officials to visit the tribal areas themselves.
“They should come and visit. We will take them to these areas. We have destroyed (sanctuaries) but the possibility still remains of their unorganised presence.”

Asif, while responding to a question regarding the treatment of the problem, said Afghan refugees should be sent back to Afghanistan and border management is vital as 645 kilometres of border is lying exposed.

The foreign minister also said that the US policy regarding Afghanistan has been inconsistent over the years, with its own ups and downs.
Elaborating further, he said at the end of former US president Barack Obama’s tenure, the US pulled out troops in large numbers and left a minimal figure behind, while US President Donald Trump, during his election campaign always supported withdrawing troops from Afghan soil.
“If the US is so erratic in its approach, then how come we support them by putting everything on the line,” said Asif.

Commenting on previous assistance given by Pakistan to the US, Asif said the country has done so twice in the past, once during the 1980s and then after 9/11, but “the country did not yield any good results”.

Asif said that if the US is so uncertain regarding its investment in terms of soldiers and funds, then it is not possible that Pakistan keeps on following it in a “robotic manner”.

The foreign minister further said the contemporary situation has led to the formation of a national narrative, which is united, through the parliament and collaboration of the institutions.
Speaking in regards to the US strategy for Pakistan and possible measures in future, Asif was of the opinion that US measures have started to unfold already, such as putting Pakistan on the watch list for religious freedom and suspension of security aid.

In response to a question, the foreign minister said that it is heartening that Pakistan’s stance on the issue is being heard, especially in the region.

The statements by the foreign minister came as the United States on Friday announced that it is suspending the transfer of military equipment and security-related funds to Pakistan.

“Today we can confirm that we are suspending security assistance only to Pakistan at this time,” State Department Spokesperson Heather Nauert announced at a press briefing.
The spokesperson added that Pakistan could receive the suspended funding if it takes decisive actions against Haqqani Network and Afghan Taliban.

The suspension of security assistance to Islamabad comes after Washington accused Pakistan of playing a “double game” on fighting terrorism and warned Islamabad it would have to do more if it wanted to maintain US aid.