- US Secretary of State John Kerry says all militant groups that continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, its neighbours and US should be targeted
- Reiterates US commitment to cooperate with Pakistan in countering terrorism, announces $250m aid for IDPs
- Says US concerned by recent tension along LoC, Working Boundary, asks India and Pakistan to find a diplomatic solution to issues
- Sartaj Aziz urges US to play its part in improving Indo-Pak ties but says no possibility of talks with India without Kashmir on agenda
Pakistan must fight militant groups that threaten Afghan, Indian and US interests, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Tuesday as he lauded Pakistan’s fight against militants in the country’s northwestern tribal region.
Visiting Pakistan after going to India over the weekend, Kerry said all militant groups should be targeted to bring security to the region.
“Terror groups like the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and other groups continue to pose a threat to Pakistan, to its neighbours and to the United States,” Kerry told a news conference in the federal capital, listing some of the most feared militant groups.
“And all of us have a responsibility to ensure that these groups do not gain a foothold but rather are pushed back into the recesses of (Pakistan’s) memory… Make no mistake. The task is a difficult one and it is not done.”
Kerry said that the brutal murder of children in Peshawar was felt in every US household, adding that US wants to build a future of Pakistani children that is free from violence.
“The tragedy of December 16 is a reminder of the serious risk of allowing extremists to find space, and be able to command that space and operate within it,” Kerry said.
He said the horrific incident had clearly defined the option of a resolute and effective action against the threat posed by the Taliban and all other terrorists.
Following last month’s attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in which 134 children were killed, Pakistan promised to stop differentiating between “good” and “bad” militants and to step up operations against their hideouts on the Afghan border.
Speaking at a news conference with Kerry, Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz reassured his counterpart that “action will be taken without discrimination against all groups”.
But, although observers have noted some progress, most agree that Pakistan has yet to show it is seriously committed to go after all groups equally, including the powerful Haqqani network which attacks targets in Afghanistan from its bases in Pakistan.
“Obviously, the proof is going to be in the pudding,” Kerry said. “It will be seen over the next days, weeks, months, how extensive and how successful this effort is going to be.”
Aziz said, however, that the Haqqani group’s infrastructure had been “totally destroyed” as a result of the Pakistan Army’s operation in a tribal region that has long been regarded as a safe haven for militants.
“Their ability to operate from here across to Afghanistan has virtually disappeared,” Aziz said.
Kerry and Aziz said Pakistan and US have been extensively cooperating in security matters and results of the cooperation will come out soon.
“Positive discussions were held during two-day strategic dialogue on Pak-US cooperation in diverse fields,” said Kerry, expressing hope that the strategic dialogue would help further promote relations between the two countries.
Kerry said Washington would provide $250 million in food, shelter and other assistance to help people displaced by conflict in the tribal areas.
Aziz made a plea for the US to keep giving Pakistan money to help rebuild the regions where the Pakistani military has been fighting militant groups.
“We expect our defence forces to remain engaged in counterterrorism operations for some time in the foreseeable future,” Aziz said. “Continuation of coalition support fund reimbursements are therefore a valuable support that must continue in the interests of both countries.”
BETTER TIES WITH AFGHANISTAN AND INDIA:
The US diplomat said that the US role in Afghanistan “is changing and not ending”, adding that during the strategic dialogue, US and Pakistan had agreed to work closely for sustainable development in Afghanistan.
Kerry urged Pakistan and Afghanistan to cooperate on security, adding that the two neighbours should ensure that their land is not used for cross-border terror attacks.
The opening of dialogue between Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was an important step for working towards a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan, he added.
The US diplomat expressed concern over the recent violence on the border dividing the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, and called on India and Pakistan to find a diplomatic solution.
“We continue to be deeply concerned by the recent spate of increased violence along the working boundary and the Line of Control,” Kerry said.
“It is profoundly in the interests of Pakistan and India to move their relationship forward,” he said, adding that US would continue to encourage the two sides to move forward and hold dialogue to resolve the issue.
NO TALKS WITH INDIA SANS KASHMIR:
To this, Aziz said that Pakistan wants peaceful relations with its neighbouring countries both on the eastern and western sides.
“Pakistan wants constructive, sustained and result-oriented dialogue with India to resolve issues,” said Aziz, but stressed that dialogue process with India would be “meaningless” without the core issue of Kashmir on agenda.
“The cancellation of foreign secretary level talks by India, followed by the recent incidents of unprovoked and indiscriminate firing on the LoC and Working Boundary are a source of serious concern to Pakistan,” Aziz said.
“We hope that US, as an influential member of the international community, can prevail upon India to work with Pakistan towards regional peace and economic prosperity,” said Aziz.