ISLAMABAD, Oct 8 (APP):Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi Sunday said ties between Washington and Islamabad were based upon decades old diplomatic, political and historic affinities and could not be defined with the sole issue of Afghanistan.
He said both governments were committed to remain engaged over a range of issues, including the issue of war on terror as Pakistan had been fighting the biggest war in the world against the menace.
During an interview in Geo TV programme hosted by Talat Hussain, the prime minister to a query about recent statements of US officials, said they had to see the outcome of the bilateral meetings held at the highest levels.
Referring to his meetings with US Vice President Pence, brief interaction with US President Donald Trump followed by recent meetings of Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif during his US visit, the prime minister said those were very constructive.
Pakistan presented its stance in a very candid and clear manner as both countries were partners in the war on terror which required them to deal the issue jointly, he added.
The prime minister maintained that issues should be perceived through the outcome of bilateral talks and not through statements given by the US officials during their hearing before the Congress or at other forums.
To a query, he said after Trump’s statement about new Afghanistan strategy, the National Security Committee and parliament had given a unanimous message which was Pakistan government’s clear response.
Subsequent meetings further clarified the issues, he said, adding, “We placed our stance very clearly and they appreciated it.”
Prime Minister Abbasi said the basic issue was Pakistan had been fighting the biggest war against terrorism with deployment of about 200,000 armed forces personnel. It had offered huge sacrifices as a large number of civilian and law enforcement agencies personnel laid down their lives in that war. The whole world acknowledged it.
The prime minister to a question replied terrorists’ leadership had safe havens on Afghan soil from where they attacked Pakistan’s border areas.
“We have clearly told Washington that no country other than Pakistan wanted durable peace in Afghanistan,” he said, adding the Afghan government had to deal with the issue itself as war was no solution. The Afghan issue could not define Pak-US decades long diplomatic ties, he said.
To another question, the prime minister said India wanted to divert attention over its atrocities in the occupied Kashmir through false allegations about Pakistan’s support to indigenous Kashmiri struggle for freedom.
He said even their own reports had exposed the terror unleashed by the occupational Indian forces against innocent Kashmiris.
The prime minister reiterated Pakistan’s moral, legal and diplomatic support for the Kashmiri people in their struggle for right to self-determination.
He maintained that India was not on the list of friendly countries as Islamabad could not expect good intentions on her part.
“We have to defend our country. Conspiracies are being hatched to build narrative against Pakistan and we have to confront them,” he added.
The prime minister referred to growing Indian influence in Afghanistan and said India had always been involved in conspiracies to destabilize Pakistan.
Expressing his determination, Abbasi said Pakistan was countering all conspiracies and would confront them. It was cognizant of all such machinations and would deal them accordingly.
About prospects of prime ministerial level talks with India, the prime minister categorically ruled them out by linking the initiative with addressing the core issue of Kashmir.
He said to discuss issues, India must end gross human violations in the occupied Kashmir, implement UN resolutions, cease Line of Control violations and budge from its cold war doctrine.
“We are open at all levels,” he said, and made it clear that it was not possible at the prime ministerial level under such scenario.
He reminded India to accept Kashmiris’ right to self-determination as on the other hand, the whole world had acknowledged their stance for freedom from the occupational forces.
The prime minister maintained that China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) was part of the Chinese government’s initiative of ‘One Belt One Road’ and a flagship of vast infrastructure and energy projects.
He dismissed US Defence Secretary Mattis’ statement over CPEC and said the United Nations should take measures to implement Security Council resolutions over Kashmir.
The prime minister said the world acknowledged Pakistan’s narrative over Kashmir and the UN also appreciated its stance and rejected allegations.
He said Pakistan and Afghanistan enjoyed fraternal ties and invited Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to visit Pakistan and he would warmly welcome him.
He also expressed his intention to visit Kabul as both countries had sacrificed for each other. Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa had extended an invitation to the Afghan president on behalf of the government of Pakistan, he added.
The prime minister said Pakistan wanted a stable Afghanistan and had offered sacrifices in that regard. It had reminded the Afghan government that certain allegations were not acceptable as the issues could be resolved on the table.
Prime Minister Abbasi further said the Afghan government was told that Pakistan would continue pursuing the border fencing initiative aggressively as attacks on its soil took place from across the Afghan border. It had also offered them joint patrols for effective border control.
Responding to a question, the prime minister said the COAS would also visit Iran on the government’s behalf, adding operational issues required to be addressed through talks. He said Foreign Minister Khawaja Muhammad Asif had also held meetings with the Iranian leadership.
The prime minister to another question said that he was functioning under the Constitution. “We have to steer the government under the Constitution and complete tasks by the PML-N government by adhering to the pro-developmental policies and look forward for the next elections. It’s my mandate,” he elaborated.
He said no country could function with dual policies and rejected the impression that the government’s policies were directed from somewhere else.
“People give mandate under which a government functions. We have to progress with this public mandate,” he said, adding the change should be only through the ballot paper and not through courts or on streets. People had to decide it solely.
The prime minister maintained that elections would be held on time.
He said on July 28, an unprecedented incident happened, judiciary handed over a verdict which was fully implemented, but the people of the country had not accepted it and even the government’s adversaries could not mention it to settle their scores.
He said it was his opinion that the history would not accept it. Within three days, a new set-up was established. It was the stability of the democratic system, he said and ruled out conspiracies against the government, resolving that conspiracies would be confronted with full force.
He said the National Security Committee meetings were being held frequently and regularly.
About deployment of Rangers at the Accountability Court, he said as prime minister, he had directed the interior minister to probe the issue.
Such an impression was not good if restrictions were imposed on the movement of people inside courts especially when a political figure was appearing, he added.
To another question, the prime minister said the interior ministry was compiling data about the owners of automatic arms licenses who would be given options to surrender their arms. He said private people should have no access to such weapons.
About broadening of the tax net, he said the issue could not be resolved overnight. About Rs102 billion tax was being paid by the salaried class while the tax paid by the non-salaried people stood around Rs 45 billion only.
He agreed that tax rates should be minimized from the current 30 per cent to 10 or 12 per cent.
The prime minister mentioned that stick and carrot policy coupled with application of technology could be used to overcome the issue and plug the loopholes in the system.
He also dropped a hint that a proper policy, which should be successful and accepted to all and sundry, would be framed soon as the government required generation of revenue.
He said the FBR issued a tax directory about parliamentarians.
The prime minister also appreciated Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s performance, who, according to him, had given a fiscal space to the country.
He said by mere allegations, a person could not be condemned and told to compare his performance with former ministers.
Expressing his complete satisfaction with his performance, he said Dar was the best person to face today’s challenges.
About his affiliation with Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister said he had been the head of PML-N.
He said the government was continuing with Nawaz Sharif’s policies and added that he did not receive directions from the party president.
To another question, the prime minister said the issue of election bill stood resolved after the parliament unanimously adopted it.
He said PML-N President Nawaz Sharif had formed a party committee to examine who were responsible for the mistake.