–Army chief says Pakistan remains committed to Afghan peace process but its own security interests are top priority
RAWALPINDI: Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Tuesday said that Pakistan’s honour and security are the nation’s foremost priority.
The COAS called on the global community to acknowledge the military, economic, political and social costs paid by Pakistan in the war on terror, according to a statement issued by Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR).
Underscoring the nation’s contribution to regional peace, Gen Bajwa reminded the international community that Pakistan’s contributions towards peace in neighbouring Afghanistan would not come at the cost of its own honour or security.
“We have paid the highest military, economic, political and social cost and the world should acknowledge that. We shall continue to contribute towards peace in Afghanistan but Pakistan’s honour and Pakistan’s security shall always stay premier,” the COAS said.
“Pakistan has successfully fought against terrorism while also contributing to regional peace. Pakistan has done much more for peace in Afghanistan than any other country,” the army chief added.
Earlier in the day, the Pentagon, headquarters of the United States Department of Defense, issued a series of statements, reaffirming diplomatic relations with Pakistan and said it remains a critical partner in America’s strategy in South Asia.
This development came a day after speaking to Fox News on Sunday, US President Donald Trump sought to justify his administration’s decision at the start of 2018 to pull military aid to Pakistan by linking it to al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden being found in Pakistan in 2011.
“They [Pakistan] don’t do a damn thing for us,” the US president had said.
However, US Director of Defense Press Operations Colonel Robert Manning, speaking to reporters during an off-camera news conference, said that Pakistan still holds strategic importance for the US when it comes to its presence in South Asia.
“The US and Pakistan have strong mutual interests in the region. As you know, they are critical (and) vital to the South Asia strategy and including the facilitation of a peace process that would lead to a stable and peaceful Afghanistan,” Colonel Manning said.
When asked a question pertaining to Trump’s tweets in response to Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rejection of his earlier statement, he said: “They [Pakistan] remain a critical partner in our South Asia strategy and there’s been no change to our military-to-military relationship with Pakistan.”
When told that his statements differed from the perspective that the American president seems to have, Manning said that he does not have any announcement on any changes in military relationship with Pakistan.
It is pertinent to mention that contrary to Trump’s insinuations, former US president Barack Obama had said last year: “We had no evidence that Pakistan was aware of his presence — that is something that we looked at.”