ISLAMABAD - Islamabad has vehemently rejected recent assertions by US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta regarding terrorist “safe havens” in Pakistan. “We feel that the (US) secretary of defence is oversimplifying some of the very complex issues we are all dealing within our efforts against extremism and terrorism. These issues need to be seen in the context of overall peace and stability in Afghanistan and the broader region,” a Foreign Office statement said on Saturday. Panetta had said in Kabul a couple of days ago that the US was reaching the limits of patience with Pakistan. “There is an increasing concern that the safe haven exists and that there were those – likely Haqqanis – who were making use of that to attack our forces,” Panetta had said.
War: In a latest interview with FOX TV, Panetta just stopped short of saying that the US was at war with Pakistan, saying the US was at war in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). “Without ever getting into the details of what we may or may not do, I think it suffices to say that the United States will do whatever we have to do to protect our forces,” Fox News quoted Panetta as saying.
“We cannot continue to tolerate a situation where Haqqanis, terrorists on their side of the border, come across, attack our troops, kill our troops, and then return to a safe haven in Pakistan. That’s intolerable,” Panetta said. His comments are likely to fuel the already uncontrollable fire. Pakistan and the US are passing through a critical phase in their bilateral relations that have reached the lowest ebb since the US Special Forces raided an alleged hideout of al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden and killed him on May 2 last year. Later, an unprovoked NATO attack on a Pakistani border post in Salala killed 24 soldiers; forcing Islamabad to block NATO supplies and get the Shamsi airbase vacated from US officials. Ever since, it has been a rocky ride road for Pak-US ties.
The Foreign Office statement said Pakistan had repeatedly said that it would not allow its territory to be used against any country, nor would it allow any safe havens on its territory. “We are fighting terrorism and extremism in our own national interest and nobody should doubt our resolve and determination in this regard. Our sacrifices remain unparalleled and our resolve unshakable,” the statement added.
“Pakistan is following a well-thought-out strategy to eradicate the menace of extremism and terrorism and will follow its own time line. We strongly believe that such statements are misplaced and unhelpful in bringing about peace and stability in the region”.