Pakistan civilian and military chiefs have rejected “incomprehensible” US comments after President Donald Trump used his first tweet of 2018 to tear into Islamabad, slamming Pakistani “lies and deceit”, with Islamabad summoning the US ambassador.
David Hale was summoned by the Pakistani foreign office late on Monday to explain Trump’s tweet, media said.
The ministry could not be reached for comment but the US embassy in Islamabad confirmed yesterday that a meeting had taken place.
Trump said that the United States had been rewarded with “nothing but lies and deceit” for “foolishly” giving Pakistan more than $33bn in aid in the last 15 years.
“They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he tweeted on Monday.
His words drew praise from Pakistan’s old foe, India, and neighbouring Afghanistan, but long-time ally China defended Pakistan.
Yesterday Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi chaired a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting of civilian and military chiefs, focusing on Trump’s tweet.
The meeting, which lasted nearly three hours, was brought forward by a day and followed an earlier meeting of army generals.
The NSC, in a statement issued by the prime minister’s office, did not name Trump but spoke of “deep disappointment” at a slew of critical comments coming from US officials over the past few months.
“Recent statements and articulation by the American leadership were completely incomprehensible as they contradicted facts manifestly, struck with great insensitivity at the trust between two nations built over generations, and negated the decades of sacrifices made by the Pakistani nation,” it said.
Relations with Washington have been strained for years over Islamabad’s alleged support for Haqqani network militants, who are allied with the Afghan Taliban.
The United States also alleges that senior Afghan Taliban commanders live on Pakistani soil, and has signalled that it will cut aid and take other steps if Islamabad does not stop helping or turning a blind eye to Haqqani militants crossing the border to carry out attacks in Afghanistan.
In 2016, Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed by a US drone strike inside Pakistan and in 2011, Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was found and killed by US troops in the garrison town of Abbottabad.
Islamabad bristles at the suggestion that it is not doing enough to fight militants, noting that its casualties at the hands of Islamists since 2001 number in the tens of thousands.
“Pakistan cannot be held responsible for the collective failure in Afghanistan and that blaming allies certainly does not serve the shared objective of achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan and the region,” the NSC said.
A statement issued by the prime minister’s office said that Pakistan will remain committed to playing a constructive role towards the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process despite “unwarranted allegations”.
The real challenges in Afghanistan were political infighting, massive corruption, phenomenal growth of drug production and expansion of ungoverned spaces inside Afghanistan full of sanctuaries for multiple international terrorist organisations, posing a serious and direct threat to Afghanistan, its neighbours and the entire region, the statement added.
“The Committee reached a consensus that despite all unwarranted allegations, Pakistan cannot act in haste and will remain committed to playing a constructive role towards an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” NSC added.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Mohamed Asif dismissed Trump’s comments as a political stunt born out of frustration over US failures in Afghanistan, where Afghan Taliban militants have been gaining territory and carrying out major attacks.
“He has tweeted against us and Iran for his domestic consumption,” Asif told Geo TV on Monday, adding that Pakistan did not need US aid.
Yesterday Asif appeared to suggest Trump was lying about how much aid Pakistan had received.
“Pres Trump quoted figure of $33billion given to PAK over last 15yrs, he can hire a US based Audit firm on our expense to verify this figure & let the world know who is lying & deceiving..,” Asif tweeted after the NSC meeting.
A US National Security Council official said on Monday that the White House did not plan to send an already-delayed $255mn sum in aid to Pakistan “at this time” and that “the administration continues to review Pakistan’s level of co-operation”.
Trump first hinted at cutting aid to Pakistan in an August speech charting his Afghan policy, and administration officials including Vice-President Mike Pence have also intimated cuts in recent months.
Afghan defence spokesman General Dawlat Waziri said that Trump had “declared the reality”, adding that “Pakistan has never helped or participated in tackling terrorism”.
Jitendra Singh, a junior minister at the Indian prime minister’s office, said that Trump’s comment had “vindicated India’s stand as far as terror is concerned and as far as Pakistan’s role in perpetrating terrorism is concerned”.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang, asked during a briefing about Trump’s tweet, did not mention the United States.
“We have said many times that Pakistan has put forth great effort and made great sacrifices in combating terrorism,” he said. “It has made a prominent contribution to global anti-terror efforts.”
Pakistani officials say that tough US measures threaten to push Pakistan further into the arms of China, which has pledged to invest $57bn in Pakistani infrastructure as part of its vast Belt and Road initiative.
Observers have said that without further information the tweet could just be more hot air between the allies.
“Trump is in the habit of issuing hardline statements which only spoil the atmosphere and violate diplomatic niceties,” analyst Hasan Askari told AFP, adding that Pakistan should seek more information.
“It will only add to the acrimony that has crept into the bilateral relationship after Trump’s arrival in the White House,” another analyst, Imtiaz Gul, told AFP.
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