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  • Jan 26th, 2018
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Pakistan Thursday insisted that the US drone strike on Wednesday targeted an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency, albeit the United States rejected this claim as false. "Pakistan's position remains the same," Spokesperson Foreign Office Dr Mohammad Faisal said this during his weekly media briefing when asked to comment on the US Embassy statement. He retreated the Foreign Office Wednesday's statement, saying: "We condemn the drone strike in Kurram Agency carried out by the Resolute Support Mission (RSM) yesterday, which targeted an Afghan refugee camp."

He stated that Pakistan continues to emphasize upon the US the importance of sharing actionable intelligence, so that appropriate action is taken against terrorists by its forces within its territory. He further said that Pakistan has also been stressing the need for early repatriation of Afghan refugees, as their presence in Pakistan helps Afghan terrorists melt and morph among them. "Such unilateral actions are detrimental to the spirit of co-operation between the two countries in the fight against terrorism," he cautioned.

Spokesperson US Embassy Richard Snelsire in a brief comment which was also shared with Business Recorder on Thursday said: "The claim in an MFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] statement yesterday [Wednesday] that US forces struck an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency yesterday is false." However, the Foreign Office statement was in contradiction with the statement issued by ISPR, particularly with regard to region of the target, which said: "the drone strike on 24 January in Spintal, Hangu district was an individual target which had morphed into Afghan Refugees and not an organized terrorist sanctuary which have been eliminated."

Reports coming from Spintal, Hangu, claimed that the drone fired missiles on a house in Spintal, killing two men namely Ihsanullah and Nasir Mehmood. To a question if there was any agreement between Pakistan and the US, wherein the US is permitted to attack some parts of Waziristan, Dr Faisal expressed ignorance on any such understanding between the two countries, saying: "I am not aware of any such agreement."

To another query, he said that a Monitoring Team (MT) of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Sanctions Committee, dealing with the Taliban, al Qaeda, and Daesh, is in Pakistan for a two-day visit. He said that the visit of the team to Islamabad is part of its regular visits to Member States to assess compliance with the UN Sanctions Regimes relating to the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1267, adding that the last visit of the team to Pakistan took place in January 2015.

The team also apprises the member states of current international and regional threat assessment from terrorism and suggests way in which the member states can improve their implementation of sanctions measures, he added. During the visit, he stated that the team is being briefed on implementation of 1267 obligations as well as shared Pakistan's perspective on the terrorist threat in the region. "The visit also gave us an opportunity to highlight our accomplishments in turning the tide against terrorism inside Pakistan and in support of global fight against terrorism," he added.

When asked whether the UN monitoring team will be given access to Jamaat-ud-Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed, the spokesperson said that the team has a particular mandate of UN sanctions regime related to the implementation of UNSC Resolution 1267. Commenting on US Deputy Secretary of State, John Sullivan's remarks urging Taliban to engage in peace talks with Afghan government, Dr Faisal said that Pakistan has always maintained that the only viable solution to the Afghan conflict lies in a politically negotiated, Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process.

He said that the peace deal signed between the Afghan-government and Hizb-e-Islami can serve as a model for future talks with other insurgent groups including the Taliban. "It is essential that the Afghan leadership should come up with a credible and inclusive peace plan so that all Afghan stake holders are incentivized to promote peace," he added. About the anti-Pakistan contents in curriculum taught to Afghan refugees, he said that the Foreign Ministry has taken up the matter with the UNHCR and conveyed deep concerns. "We expect international organizations to adhere to the highest standards of professionalism, impartiality, and respect for national laws," he said, adding that the UNHCR has undertaken to launch investigation and share its findings.

On India's pre-induction trial of 5,000km rang Agni-V ICBM, the spokesperson said that there exists a clear disconnect between India's declared policy of restraint and its relentless pursuit of an ambitious missile programme. He said that the development of Agni V ICBM unmasks India's real designs of pursuing hegemony and is an exercise in power projection. While every state has a right to its security, the buildup of sophisticated and advanced weapons and delivery systems by India far exceeds its legitimate defense needs, he added.

"Seen in the backdrop of other acquisitions of advanced capabilities in both the conventional and non-conventional domains, these developments will negatively impact strategic stability in the South Asian region and beyond," he warned. He said that Pakistan will continue to adhere to a policy of restraint and a responsible defence posture. "Pakistan will not be oblivious to such worrying developments and will take steps that are commensurate with the imperatives of its legitimate defence and security needs," he added.

About Indian authorities' objection on CPEC route via Gilgit-Baltistan, he said that India has embarked on a malicious propaganda campaign to malign CPEC by false invocation against the project. "In addition to not implementing the UNSC Resolution on the Jammu & Kashmir dispute, India wants the Kashmiris to live in abject poverty, faraway from economic development. This is not acceptable to Pakistan," he added.

Commenting on Indian Prime Minister Modi's recent remarks that "India was not working hard to isolate Pakistan," he said Indian statements of desiring peace on the one hand and posturing about the alleged surgical strike and the intention to repeat them contradict each other. They are also belied by the situation at the LoC and the WB where during the first three weeks of 2018 alone, the Indian forces carried out more than 180 ceasefire violations, resulting in the martyrdom of 11 innocent civilians, while injuring 48 others, he added.

He said that Indian falsified claims and belligerent statements are motivated by an exaggerated view of its own capacities and hegemonic designs. India's mistaken belief and irresponsible rhetoric are fraught with unforeseen dangers in an already volatile strategic environment. However, he said that Pakistan believes in a peaceful neighborhood, which is essential for peace and development. "Cooperation instead of conflict is the only way forward but this needs to be reciprocated by actions not words. Verbal promises of peace accompanied by blood and death in IoK and the LoC and the WB are a paradox which defies logic," he said.

He also stated that there is a need to de-escalate tensions to prevent further loss of life at both sides. In the modern world of today, armed conflict only complicates things, he added. To another query, he confirmed that military official posted at Pakistan Mission in Austria, Vienna, has disappeared and his Pakistani passport has been cancelled by the government. AFP adds: Pakistan's claim that the US hit an Afghan refugee camp in a drone strike is "false", a US spokesman said Thursday, as tensions between the uneasy allies ratchet higher over Islamabad's alleged support for militants.

The drone strike, which took place well inside Pakistani territory on Wednesday, killed a mid-level commander from the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, local officials and a source close to the Islamist group have told AFP. "The claim in (a foreign ministry) statement yesterday that US forces struck an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram Agency yesterday is false," a spokesman for the US embassy in Islamabad said. The foreign ministry did not elaborate on the nature of the "refugee camp".

A spokesman for the UN refugee agency has told AFP there are no refugee camps in the tribal areas, and no sign of a camp can be seen in pictures from the site. Local officials also told AFP they were not aware of a refugee camp in the area.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2018

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