Pakistan “puzzled” over U.S. continuous criticism of its anti-terrorism efforts

Washington: The Pakistani policy makers appear “puzzled” over Washington’s conduct with regard to its relationship with Islamabad.

The “extremely opposing views” emanating from within the U.S. Congress about Pakistan’s counter-terrorism policies and efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan have troubled several Pakistani policy makers.

Pakistan and the United States have had a phase of uneasy relations over allegations that Islamabad’s counter-terrorism operations focus only on militants linked to the anti-state Pakistani Taliban, and spare sanctuaries linked to Afghan militants, including the Haqqani Network terrorist group, reports Voice of America.

It was not long ago that the U.S Congress prevented the Obama administration from subsidizing the sale of eight F-16 fighter planes to Pakistan. The recent US Congressional hearing under the title “Pakistan: Friend or foe” has further infuriated the Pakistani senators.

Some lawmakers and witnesses during the hearing demanded Washington to cut off all financial and military aid to Islamabad, accusing the Pakistan military of maintaining ties with Taliban and Haqqani militants fighting the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Former U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and United Nations, Zalmay Khalilzad, had even urged the United States to adopt a policy of total isolation against Islamabad and turn it into a “second North Korea” to force it to cooperate for peace in Afghanistan.

However, senior Pakistani officials were quick to belittle this Congressional hearing and dismissed anti-Pakistan assertions there as “baseless concerns” of a section of U.S lawmakers.

“The hearing you have referred to was informal and was very thinly attended. Mr. Ted Poe, who was behind the idea of hearing, himself did not attend it. His negative bias against Pakistan is well known, so nothing positive could be expected,” asserted Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mohammad Nafees Zakaria.

He added that from the Pakistan-U.S. common perspective, the two countries are “long time partners and allies in their shared goal of defeating terrorism” and have been cooperating for the same.

Owais Leghari, chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs, asserted that Pakistan is being increasingly blamed and turned into a “punching bag” because of setbacks the U.S. policy has suffered in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, members of a bipartisan Congressional delegation visited Pakistan and Afghanistan earlier this month under the leadership of Republican Senator John McCain.

The Congressmen held comprehensive talks with Pakistan Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.

“They are looking at securing the Pakistan border in a more substantial way. So, I want to help Pakistan, and they are doing the right thing and there is a lot of improvement to be made. But I would acknowledge it a step in the right direction,” said U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham.

Pakistan has lately taken new measures to strengthen security along its 2,600-kilometer border with Afghanistan, including construction of new check posts at eight established crossing routes, saying it would help counter terrorist movement on either side.

The project, however, has enraged the Afghan authorities, who dispute the border being an international frontier.

Senator Graham also praised General Sharif, saying he has “set a new attitude” in the counter-terrorism campaign and it is “beginning to show some progress.”

Graham also disclosed that the Pakistani Army Chief is opposed to any abrupt withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

However, this contradicts concerns often expressed in Kabul and echoed during Congressional hearing that Islamabad is supporting the Taliban, believing that continuing the war in Afghanistan will lead to a U.S. withdrawal and a collapse of the current Afghan Government to set the stage for the Islamist insurgency to return to power.

Despite skepticism and differences in bilateral ties, officials and analysts in Islamabad appear confident that Washington would desist from adopting any punitive policies towards Pakistan.

The confidence, they say, stems from the Pakistan’s growing economic and political ties with China. (ANI)