Washington: Pakistan remains a “safe haven” for terrorists and a fount of “radical Islamist thought” while its security agencies support militant groups destabilising Afghanistan and threatening India, a top US lawmaker said today.
“Pakistani governments have come and gone, but it’s northwestern frontier has remained a terrorist haven, with its security services supporting what it considers to be good Islamist terrorist groups,” Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in one of the sharpest attack on Pakistan.
“These good groups, under Pakistan’s calculus, destabilise Afghanistan and threaten neighbouring India, while the government simultaneously opposes what it considers the bad Islamist groups,” he said.
Chairing a Congressional hearing on Pakistan, Royce said after more than a decade under sanctions for its nuclear proliferation, Pakistan was to be a key ally in combating Islamist militancy, becoming a leading recipient of US aid in the nearly 15 years of war on terror.
“But while the US was quick to embrace Pakistan, Pakistan has hardly reciprocated,” Royce said as he was joined by other top American lawmakers in lashing out at Pakistan.
“The committee has repeatedly urged Pakistan to take meaningful action against key Islamist terrorist groups operating within its territory. Unfortunately, Pakistan, which is now home to the world’s fastest growing nuclear weapons program, has remained a fount of radical Islamist thought,” he said.
Royce further observed that it was no surprise that one of the San Bernardino attackers, Tashfeen Malik, studied at a Pakistani school spreading a particularly fundamentalist message.
As many as 14 people were killed and 22 injured in a terror attack on December 2, when Malik, along with her Pakistani-origin husband Syed Rizwan Farook opened fire at a public health training event in San Bernardino.
Looking back, Congressman Ted Poe said, the 9/11 terror attacks transformed US-Pakistan relations overnight.
The US has given Pakistan $30 billion since 9/11, Poe said.
“I think Pakistan is a Benedict Arnold ally to the US. Even going back to May 2, 2011, when there was the raid in Pakistan on Osama bin Laden, we didn’t tell the Pakistanis we were coming, because, frankly, they would snitch us off and Osama bin Laden would have left,” he said.
“The near confrontation that took place between the US and Pakistan after the raid, Pakistan scrambled two US-made F-16s and a possible confrontation with two US-made jets against American helicopters at the raid didn’t happen, but it could have happened,” Poe said, adding that the Congress should be very concerned about providing arms to Pakistan, who seems to play with all sides.
Describing America’s relationship with Pakistan as a “disgrace”, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher alleged its government provided safe haven to Osama bin Laden.
“I don’t think anybody believes that the high-level people in the Pakistan government didn’t know about that,” he said.
“They continue to hold Dr Afridi, just to rub it in our face the type of relationship they have with us. And to their own people, they’re slaughtering people, they’re slaughtering people in Baluchistan, and the Sindhis and others who are being brutally oppressed by a clique in their government,” he alleged.
Testifying on behalf of the US Government, Richard G Olson, Special US Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, told lawmakers that Pakistan seems to be committed in this fight against terrorism.
“I think that their commitment is serious to fighting terrorism. At the same time, I think more needs to be done in terms of action against terrorist networks like Haqqani network in Pakistan,” he said in response to a question.
“While we do not always see eye to eye on every issue, our relationship with Pakistan is vital to the national security of the US,” Olson said in defense of US providing billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan.
Pakistan, he argued, is becoming a more constructive actor in the region.
Last July, Pakistan facilitated a direct meeting between the Afghan government and Taliban representatives in Muri, Pakistan, he said.
“While we see progress in decreasing the presence of certain terrorists in Pakistan, we continue to press Pakistan to target all militant groups that have safe haven in Pakistan, particularly the Taliban, including the Haqqani network and Lashkar-e-Taiba,” the top Obama Administration official said.