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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday asked the interim Afghan government to fulfil its commitment with sincerity and in good faith as well as with “concrete actions” not to allow its soil to be used by terrorist outfits, following the deadly terrorist suicide attack on a mosque in the Peshawar Police Lines.

In her weekly media briefing, Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch reacted sharply to a statement by acting foreign minister of the Afghan interim government Amir Khan Muttaqi, who had raised suspicions over the Peshawar terrorist attack to be an alleged “internal act” in a bid to counter criticism over the Taliban regime for giving shelter to banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

“We have seen the statement of the Afghan Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs… We do not believe in accusations or finger pointing; however, we would reiterate our expectation that no country would allow its territory to be used for perpetrating terrorism against Pakistan. It is time the commitments made to the world and Pakistan are fulfilled with sincerity and in good faith with concrete actions,” the spokesperson said when asked to comment on the Afghan acting foreign minister’s statement.

She said that Pakistan expects sincere cooperation from the interim Afghan government to address the challenge of terrorism and hopes that Kabul would live up to the commitments made to the international community in this regard.

“We take the loss of innocent lives very seriously and would expect our neighbours to do the same…Terrorism is a common threat to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. We must take a strong stance against entities that use violence against innocent citizens and law enforcement agencies. We remain firm in our resolve to root out the evil of terrorism and safeguard the security of every citizen,” she added.

Addressing a gathering in Kabul on Wednesday, Muttaqi asked Pakistani authorities to avoid blaming “others for their own problems” and hold a thorough investigation into the Peshawar attack. “Our region is familiar with wars and bomb blasts. But we have not seen in the past 20 years that a lone suicide bomber blowing up roofs of mosques and killing hundreds of people,” Muttaqi said while expressing suspicions over the blast.

Responding to another question, she said that the Peshawar terror attack is under investigation and “we should wait for further details till completion of the ongoing probe.”

Asked if Pakistan needs US cooperation in countering terrorism, she said that Pakistan has capabilities and the country’s armed forces are capable enough to deal with the militancy. However, she added that Pakistan continues to hold consultations with international partners with regard to countering terrorism.

In response to another query about Afghan refugees, she said that Pakistan has for years hosted Afghan refugees, “because we had a responsibility towards our neighbours to welcome them who were in a difficult situation.” “We will continue to work with UNHCR, our international partners and the Afghan authorities to develop a pull factor in Afghanistan so that these refugees are able to return back to their country,” she added.

About Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s visit to the US, she said the foreign minister is visiting Washington from 1-3 February 2023 to attend the National Prayer Breakfast which brings together US and international leaders for a discourse on contemporary issues.

She said that the foreign minister will be a keynote speaker at the event where he will speak about the “Role of Faith in the Future and Sustainability of Democracy”. On Wednesday, she added that Bilawal addressed the annual gathering of the White House Fellows and Congressional Staff.

She added that the foreign minister also held meetings with the Biden administration officials, Councillor State Department Derek Chollet and Executive Director of the World Food Programme.

Earlier, the foreign minister undertook an official visit to Moscow at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov from 29-30 January 2023. This was the foreign minister’s first visit to Moscow which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Pakistan.

She said that the foreign minister held delegation-level talks with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on 30th January 2023. “The talks covered the entire range of bilateral relations with a special focus on trade and economic relations, energy cooperation as well as regional and global issues of mutual interest,” she added.

She stated that the two foreign ministers agreed to further enhance cooperation in the areas of trade, energy, education, culture, security, and counter-terrorism. “They also agreed on the importance of regular high-level exchanges and to continue bilateral dialogue mechanisms to explore mutually beneficial cooperation,” she added.

She stated that the two foreign ministers also discussed global and regional issues, especially South Asia and Afghanistan. Bilateral cooperation at multilateral fora including SCO came under discussion.

To a question about the possible penalty on Pakistan for failing to proceed with the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, she said that Pakistan and Iran have close relations and the two sides have a mutual desire to move forward on all issues, including on the IP gas project. Asked if Pakistan condemns the recent alleged drone attack on a military factory in Iran’s Isfahan, she declined to comment at this stage, saying: “we have seen the reports and at this stage, I don’t have any comment to make on the issue.”

About India’s bid to amend Indus Waters Treaty, she said that Pakistan will not indulge in debate on the Indian media reports, adding that Pakistan is focusing on the hearing currently underway in the court of arbitration in The Hague.

The spokesperson also announced that Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar will undertake a visit to Colombo on 3-4 February 2023 to participate in the 75th Independence Day of Sri Lanka as a guest of honour. In addition to attending the Independence Day events, she will call on the Sri Lankan leadership and hold a meeting with the foreign minister of Sri Lanka, she added.

“Pakistan and Sri Lanka have historic ties that have grown steadily in all aspects of bilateral cooperation. We also have worked closely in multilateral forums including SAARC. The visit of the Minister of State would contribute to enhanced understanding between the two countries and signal Pakistan’s support for Sri Lanka in a difficult time,” she added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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