UNITED NATIONS: In a forceful rebuttal of U.S. accusation of terrorist ‘safe havens’ on Pakistan’s soil, Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi told the UN Security Council Friday that envisioning that these sanctuaries lie outside Afghanistan need a reality check.
“Afghanistan and its partners, especially the US, need to address the challenges inside Afghanistan rather than shift the onus for ending the conflict onto others,” the Pakistani envoy said in a debate on building regional partnership in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
Convened by Kazakhstan in its capacity as the President of the security Council for the month of January, the ministerial level debate was chaired by the country’s Foreign Minister Kairat Abdrakhmanov.
Responding to US Deputy of State John Sullivan’s charge that Pakistan provides safe havens inside its territory, Ambassador Lodhi said, “Those who imagine sanctuaries are outside Afghanistan need a reality check.”
She also said that any strategy that continues to rely on military force was delusional as it would produce more violence, not a political solution.
“After 17 years of war, it is more than evident that neither the Afghan government and its military partners, nor the Afghan Taliban are in a position to impose a military solution on each other,” Ambassador Lodhi told the 15-nation Council.
“It is not enough to pay lip service to a negotiated settlement and then do little other than execute a strategy of force and coercion under the delusion that this will work.”
“At the same time,” she added, “we call on the Taliban to abandon the path of violence and join talks.” Ambassador Lodhi also hit back at Indian Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin’s allegation about Pakistani mindset of promoting cross-border terrorism, saying, “Those who talk of changing mindsets need to look within, at their own record of subversion against my country as our capture of an Indian spy (Kulbhushan Jadhav) has proven beyond doubt.”
In her remarks, the Pakistani envoy pointed out that over 40 percent of Afghanistan was under the control of insurgent groups, and that illicit drug trafficking provided them with a steady financial income estimated at US$ 400 million a year.
“Indeed, with its safe havens inside the country and income from the narcotics trade, the insurgency does not need any outside assistance or ‘support centers’ to sustain itself,” she added.
Sustainable peace would only be achieved through a negotiated settlement to the conflict, ambassador Lodhi emphasized. “Apart from Afghanistan, it is Pakistan, which has the most to gain from peace in Afghanistan,” she said. Pakistan, she said, continues to host the largest protracted presence of Afghan refugees anywhere in the world.
“My country has been the major victim of terrorism and violence emanating from Afghanistan’s wars,” the Pakistani envoy told delegates. Pakistan has fought and defeated terrorism within Pakistan, and its counter-terrorism campaign, deploying a 200,000 strong force, has turned the tide of terrorism.
“Our ability to totally eliminate terrorist attacks in Pakistan depends on effective control of the border with Afghanistan,” she said, adding that Islamabad had enforced stringent border management measures on our side of the border — yet to be matched on the other side by the Afghan government.
The Pakistani envoy said despite the large presence of foreign military forces in Afghanistan and the large sums of development aid that had been provided to the country, security had deteriorated and economic growth had been anaemic. The people of Afghanistan had paid a heavy price for more than four decades of foreign invasions and bloody civil war.
The entire region had been buffeted by the turmoil, drugs and instability radiating from Afghanistan, she said. Strengthening bilateral relations was a priority for her Government, and Pakistan had undertaken a number of initiatives to promote the development of Afghanistan, including commitments totalling some $1 billion to various infrastructure development projects in Afghanistan. Yet, she said none of those efforts could be successful without the restoration of peace.
At the outset of the meeting, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres extolled the benefits of regional cooperation, stressing the important role Afghanistan and neighbouring countries played in forging coordinated partnerships in a range of sectors, from energy to transportation.
Despite grave security challenges, with greater regional collaboration and investment Central Asia and Afghanistan had the potential to become symbols of dialogue, peace and the promotion of contacts between cultures, religions and civilizations, he said.