US told “Pakistan has its own anti-terror strategy”

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Saturday sent out a crystal clear message to US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta that it is following a well thought out strategy to eradicate the menace of extremism and terrorism and will follow its own timeline, regarding “safe havens” in Pakistan. To date, the US has refrained from designating the Haqqani network an international terror organization, though it has put several of its members on the terror list. “We strongly believe that such statements are misplaced and unhelpful in bringing about peace and stability in the region”, said the spokesman at the Foreign Office, at a time when US assistant defence secretary Peter Lavoy arrived in the capital for bilateral talks. Pakistan’s belated reaction after three days, came as drone strikes intensified, and Panetta, on a visit to Kabul, criticised Pakistan over safe havens for insurgents who attack US troops across the border in Afghanistan, saying that the US was losing ‘patience’ with Pakistan, “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. These issues need to be seen in the context of overall peace and stability in Afghanistan and the broader region,” said the spokesman. In the past, Pakistan has always pleaded that it simply does not have enough troops and other means to start a fresh military operation in North Waziristan to take out the Haqqani network, while also believing that those in the Haqqani network are attacking Afghanistan and not Pakistan. It is also well known that after the request of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Pakistan has acted as a bridge to bring together the US and members of the Haqqani network face to face in the Middle East. “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. We are fighting terrorism and extremism in our own national interest and nobody should doubt our resolve and determination in this regard. Our sacrifices remain unparalleled and our resolve unshakable,” said the spokesman. As US criticism comes afresh, The News asked an official at the ISPR, why the US was not designating the Haqqani network an international terrorist group, “It is for the US itself to explain why it is not declaring the Haqqani network an international terrorist group”. The view in the American camp is that it would certainly not be easier for everyone if the US took this step. It would for sure put Pakistan in an awkward and dangerous position because if Rawalpindi continues to ignore taking out the Haqqani network, then it would fit the description of a state sponsor of Terrorism. “No-one wants that,” says one analyst. But at the same time the State Department told the media that Secretary Panetta, Secretary Clinton and others have stated about their desire to work with Pakistan to squeeze the Haqqani network. “We need to make a joint effort to confront them and confront extremism in Pakistan. Proscribing the Haqqani network is still under consideration, still under review. There’s a rigorous legal process, that’s undertaken whenever we look at that kind of designation for an organization. At the same time, we’ve designated and sanctioned, all of the key leadership within the Haqqani network”, said the spokesperson. When The News spoke to Senator Mushahid Hussain, Chairman, Senate Defence & Defence Production Committee, he explained that there is confusion in the US Afghan policy over proscribing the Haqqani network. “The Obama administration has failed to figure out Afghanistan, or for that matter, Pakistan. They are not sure whether they want to take on the Taliban or talk to the Taliban (of which the Haqqani group is an integral part), the confusion persists in US policy. There is a contradiction in that, they asked Pakistan last year to facilitate talks with the Haqqani group, which Pakistan duly did, in the UAE. But then if you are negotiating with them covertly, it’s difficult to overtly declare them terrorist. This means there is a difference between posturing (hard line) & policy (more pragmatic) from Washington.” Senator Mushahid Hussain also believes that the US does not want to increase pressure on Pakistan because they need Pakistan, as it is pivotal to facilitate not just their eventual exit from Afghanistan but also talks leading to that goal. “Sooner rather than later, the US will realise they have made mistakes in their Pakistan policy”, he added. AFP adds: Pakistan on Saturday branded US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s remarks on insurgent safe havens in the country as “misplaced and unhelpful.” In a statement Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Ahmad Khan said: “Pakistan strongly rejects the assertions made by Leon Panetta regarding ‘safe havens’ in Pakistan.