ISLAMABAD: Pakistan reiterated its “deep” concerns at the possession and use of modern sophisticated weapons by outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and also emphasised the need for “collaborative action” by the international community to neutralise the threat emanating from Afghanistan.

The latest concerns of the government of Pakistan were expressed by Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch in response to queries by journalists at her weekly media briefing when her response was sought on the statement by John Kirby, the US National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications, who denied leaving any weapons in Afghanistan during the US military’s withdrawal from the country in August 2021, dismissing such allegations as “farce”.

“Pakistan is deeply concerned about the possession and use of modern sophisticated arms and weapons by TTP, which is a listed terrorist organization,” Baloch said.

“The threat that it poses requires collaborative action by the international community and collaborative strategies to neutralise this threat. We will continue to work towards this end,” she added.

The statement comes amid speculation with regard to Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir’s visit to the US that Islamabad might be pushing Washington to resume drone operation against TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

When asked whether Pakistan is seeking the US’s drone support against Afghanistan-based TTP sanctuaries, though the spokesperson did not specifically respond the query, yet she stated Pakistan has been in talks, not just with the United States, but with many countries around the world, in terms of enhancement of Pakistan’s capacity to fight terrorism. “And these talks have continued,” she said, adding Pakistan has been engaged with the neighbours of Afghanistan to help bring peace, stability, and prosperity to Afghanistan.

She added that Pakistan has no designs to create difficulties for the people of Afghanistan. “Our complete focus is to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan and to work with our Afghan brothers and sisters to ensure that terror threat from Afghanistan does not target Pakistan,” she added.

To another query, she said that the visit of the chief of army staff to the US was in the context of promoting understanding and cooperation between Pakistan and the United States in the realm of security and defence and there were detailed discussions between the two sides.

Responding to another question, Baloch also expressed Pakistan’s concerns about the involvement of Indian intelligence agencies in supporting, financing terrorist elements, and terrorist activities inside Pakistan.

“There are a number of cases where we have substantive evidence of the involvement of terrorist elements, which are funded and supported by India, and in the coming days we will be sharing more details with the media,” she added.

To another question about the reported invitation extended by Taliban interim regime to JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman to visit Kabul in a bid to resume talks with the TTP, she declined to comment on any visit by an “individual”, saying, “Perhaps that question may be best addressed to the Afghan authorities because we are not aware of any such initiative.” Commenting on media reports with regard to the reported arrest of some TTP members made by the Afghan interim government, she expressed her inability to confirm the veracity of the reports about the arrests.

“We have noted some media reports. At this stage, we are unable to confirm the existence, scale or effectiveness of any action along those lines. We of course expect from the Afghan authorities to take effective action against terrorist groups, especially TTP,” she said.

She further stated that Pakistan hopes that any meaningful action will be reflected on ground with reduction of terrorist incidents sponsored by individuals who enjoy sanctuaries inside Afghanistan.

On talks with TTP, she once again made it clear that Pakistan is very clear on the talks with the TTP, adding that there are no talks taking place, and there are no talks on the agenda between the State of Pakistan and TTP.

“Our issue right now that we are focusing on is the action that the Afghan authorities must take against TTP elements and rein them in so that the terror threat against Pakistan from the Afghan soil is eliminated,” she added.

When her comments were sought on Indian media reports that claim that Dawood Ibrahim has been poisoned in Karachi and hospitalised, the spokesperson termed this India’s “habitual” propaganda campaign against Pakistan.

“We must remember that India has the habit of propagating false news and accusations against Pakistan. There is credible evidence, which has come to light, including through the EU DisInfo labs that India routinely engages in false news and targets Pakistan and that is why we would not like to comment on such false narrative that they propagate to target Pakistan,” she added.

Asked to comment on the USCIRF’s recent report in which it has expressed concerns at the increasing use of blasphemy law in Pakistan to target individuals on the basis of religion, she said that the report is based on “faulty assumptions, full of unsubstantiated allegations and non-reflective of the ground realities in Pakistan.”

“Pakistan is mindful of its responsibility to prevent the misuse of blasphemy laws for personal gain or interest. The government has instituted a number of safeguards to prevent misuse of blasphemy laws,” she said, adding that these safeguards are underwritten by our judiciary that takes very careful consideration of blasphemy cases.

As a pluralistic society, she added that Pakistan is fully determined to protect and advance the constitutionally guaranteed human rights of all its citizens and foster interfaith harmony.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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