Govt rejects Panetta’s remarks on safe havens
ISLAMABAD PAKISTAN on Saturday branded US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s remarks on insurgent safe havens in the country as “misplaced and unhelpful”.
Panetta warned Pakistan on Thursday that the US was running out of patience over Islamabad’s refusal to do more to eliminate hiding places for insurgents, who attack US troops fighting a 10-year war against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Panetta made the comments after talks with Afghan Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak during an Asian tour that took him to Pakistan’s arch-rival India, but not Islamabad in a sign of dire US-Pakistan relations.
“Pakistan strongly rejects the assertions made recently by US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta regarding ‘safe havens’ in Pakistan,” foreign ministry spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan said in a statement.
“We feel that the Secretary of Defence is oversimplifying some of the very complex issues we are all dealing with in our efforts against extremism and terrorism.” Panetta singled out the Haqqani network, a Taliban and Al Qaeda-linked faction that has bases in Pakistan’s lawless tribal district of North Waziristan and which has been blamed for some of the deadliest attacks of the 10- year war in Afghanistan.
On Thursday, Panetta said US patience was running thin with Pakistan due to the presence of safe areas for militants who carried out crossborder raids on Western troops and terrorist activities in Afghanistan.
“It is very important for Pakistan to take steps. It is an increasing concern, the issue of safe haven, and we are reaching the limits of our patience,” Panetta said during a trip to Afghanistan.
The US has asked Pakistan many times to deploy its army against Al Qaeda-linked militants operating from North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts, but Pakistan has refused to comply.
“Pakistan has repeatedly said that it will not allow its territory to be used against any country, nor will it allow any safe havens on its territory,” the spokesman said.
He stressed that Pakistan was fighting terrorism and extremism in its own national interest and “nobody should doubt our resolve and determination in this regard”.
“Our sacrifices remain unparalleled and our resolve unshakable,” he said.
“We strongly believe that such statements are misplaced and unhelpful in bringing about peace and stability in the region.” The latest war of words coincides with the visit of US Assistant Defence Secretary Peter Lavoy, who arrived in Pakistan on Friday to seek an end to the blockade of a NATO supply line, implemented more than six months ago when NATO attacked a Pakistani border post, killing 24 servicemen.
Islamabad’s closure of the Afghan border to NATO following the November 2011 air strikes that killed 24 soldiers plunged relations with US to an all-time low after Pakistan was humiliated by a US raid that killed Osama bin Laden last May.