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Border strikes must have Kabul nod, US tells Pakistan

ISLAMABAD –  The United States has told Pakistan that any action inside Afghanistan against the terrorists must be mutually agreed upon between the two neighbours, The Nation has learnt.

Senior officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday said that Washington wanted Kabul and Islamabad to agree on the extent of the action, so that it did not explode into military confrontation.

For the last two days, Pakistani forces have been striking Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) hideouts along the Pak-Afghan border.

Dozens of the JuA centres have been destroyed in the action on both sides of the border.  Several militants have also been killed by the forces.

After the attack on the shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa contacted the top US commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson to discuss the destruction caused in Pakistan by Afghanistan-based terrorists. General Bajwa “expressed his concerns over continued acts of terrorism in Pakistan with impunity from Afghanistan.”

After Bajwa’s telephonic contact, the military launched an operation along the border targeting the militant hideouts.

Earlier, Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz telephoned Afghan National Security Adviser Hanif Atmar seeking action against the terrorists hiding along the border.  The Afghan embassy diplomats were also summoned separately by the foreign ministry and the army.

They were asked to hand over 76 wanted terrorists to Pakistan.

Pakistan-Afghanistan border crossings at Torkham and Chaman have also been closed amid the tension.

A senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The Nation that the US had no objection to the operation along the border inside Afghanistan but wanted Islamabad and Kabul to “cooperate”, instead of “confronting” each other.

“The US wants joint efforts by Afghanistan and Pakistan against the terror networks. It wants the two countries to agree on some terms to achieve the goal,” he said.

Another official at the ministry said that Pakistan had taken up the cross-border terrorism issue with the US and sought its intervention to stop Kabul from providing safe havens to the terror outfits.

“The US supported our viewpoint but referred to the identical allegations by Afghanistan [of cross-border terrorism]. Washington believes the two countries will need to cooperate to defeat terrorism,” he added.

Over the weekend, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had vowed to fight the internal and external terrorists.

“For the past many years, we have been fighting the enemies from within and those abroad. The government will do its part in ensuring defeat to those who are attacking the rights and liberties of our fellow countrymen. War on terror will conclude with the victory of our people,” he had said, in a statement.

Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry said that Afghanistan must cooperate with Pakistan to defeat terror and to ensure peace in the region.

He said that Pakistan expected help from Afghan intelligence, leadership and other institutions to work for regional peace. Chaudhry said that Pakistan was committed to Afghanistan peace and wanted all stakeholders to sit down together and find a permanent solution.

The secretary said border management and enhanced security along the border were key steps taken by Pakistan to stop infiltration of the terrorists.

“The terrorists using Afghan soil against Pakistan should be dealt [with] strictly by Afghanistan. We need to control them for peace,” he said.

Defence analyst Dr Muhammad Khan said that India was using Afghanistan soil to perpetrate terrorism in Pakistan.

“The US knows that India is supporting terror groups in Afghanistan against Pakistan. The US should use its influence to stop this dirty game,” he said. Khan said that terrorists entered Pakistan in the recent days and carried attacks in different parts of the country.

“We have given them [Afghanistan] a list of 76 terrorists. They should arrest them and hand them over to us,” he added. International affairs expert Dr Huma Baqai said that terrorists were expected to be active after winter.

“We must pre-empt. We should nip the evil in the bud,” she said.

Dr Baqai said that the recent terror incidents could have been averted if the law enforcement agencies were a little more vigilant.  “We need to be more active. We know there is a threat. The armed forces must target their other hideouts too,” she added.

 

This news was published in The Nation newspaper. Read complete newspaper of 20-Feb-2017 here.

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