Pakistan says US must not make it a “scapegoat” for Afghan failures

Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif. (Reuters)
Updated 23 August 2017
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Pakistan says US must not make it a “scapegoat” for Afghan failures

KARACHI: Pakistan rejected on Wednesday US criticism of its efforts to fight terrorism saying it should not be used as a scapegoat for the failure of the US military to win the war in Afghanistan.
US President Donald Trump unveiled his policy for Afghanistan on Monday, committing to an open-ended conflict there and singling out Pakistan for harboring Afghan Taliban insurgents and other militants.
US officials later warned that aid to Pakistan might be cut and Washington might downgrade nuclear-armed Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally to pressure it to do more to help bring about an end to America’s longest-running war.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif added his voice to a chorus of indignation in Pakistan over the US criticism, reiterating Pakistan’s denial that it harbors militants.
“They should not make Pakistan a scapegoat for their failures in Afghanistan,” Asif said in an interview to Geo TV late on Tuesday.
“Our commitment to war against terrorism is unmatched and unshaken.”
Pakistan has for years been battling militants who are seeking to overthrow the state with bomb attacks and assassinations.
But critics say the Pakistani military nurtures other Islamist factions, including the Afghan Taliban, which are seen as useful to Pakistan’s core confrontation with old rival India.
Asif said Pakistan had suffered great losses from Islamist militancy — the government estimates there have been 70,000 casualties in militant attacks, including 17,000 Pakistanis killed — since Pakistan joined the US “war on terrorism” after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
But he said Pakistan’s efforts to fight terrorism were being taken for granted and dismissed the notion the United States could “win war against terror by threatening us or cornering us.”
“Our contributions, sacrifices and our role as a coalition country have been disregarded and disrespected,” Asif said.
The relationship between Pakistan and the United States has endured periods of extreme strain during the past decade, especially after Al-Qaeda militant leader Osama Bin Laden was found and killed by US special forces in Pakistan in 2011.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who is due to meet Asif in coming days, on Tuesday outlined a range of options to change Pakistan’s approach but conceded there were concerns about putting too much pressure on Pakistan.
Asif said Pakistan was also angered by Trump’s appeal to India to do more in Afghanistan.
“Attempting to isolate Pakistan will not yield anything but a dangerous sharpening of strategic fault lines,” said Sherry Rehman, a senior opposition politician and former Pakistani ambassador to the United States.
Former cricket star turned opposition politician Imran Khan said Pakistan should finally learn a valuable lesson: “Never to fight others wars for the lure of dollars,” he said on Twitter.


UPDATE 1-“Brexit continues to mean Brexit“: May presses on with her plan

Updated 1 min 55 sec ago
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UPDATE 1-“Brexit continues to mean Brexit“: May presses on with her plan

LONDON: British Prime Minister Theresa May said on Wednesday her government had begun negotiations with the European Union based on her hard-won Brexit plan, pressing on with a proposal criticized by both wings of her Conservative Party.
After narrowly escaping defeat in parliament over her plans for leaving the EU, May signalled she would not drop a proposal on Britain’s future relationship with bloc — the biggest shift in its foreign and trade policy for almost half a century.
But by sticking to her plan for a “business-friendly” departure, May has thrown down the gauntlet to Brexit supporters and pro-EU lawmakers in her party who are at war with each other, and — for some — with the prime minister herself.
Boris Johnson, her former foreign minister who quit over what is called the Chequers plan, was one of the first to renew his call for government to rethink its strategy, saying “it is not too late to save Brexit.”
But at an earlier session of parliament, May stood firm after being challenged by one pro-Brexit lawmaker in her party to explain when she had decided to change her catchphrase from “Brexit means Brexit,” to “Brexit means Remain.”
“Brexit continues to mean Brexit,” May said to cheers from her Conservative supporters.
May also said talks had already started with Brussels based on the proposal set down in a white paper policy document last week after her divided government had thrashed out a deal at her Chequers country residence.
The prime minister insisted she was confident Britain had enough time to negotiate a deal with the EU before leaving in March next year.
While May’s party is in disarray over the plan, EU member Ireland also said it was focusing on the white paper, unwilling to be diverted over the changes to her Brexit plans forced through in parliament this week.
“If we get distracted by individual amendments to individual pieces of legislation ... then I think we get dragged into an unnecessary debate that wastes a lot of time and energy,” Foreign Minister Simon Coveney told state broadcaster RTE.

“WE CAN CHANGE“
May’s vulnerability in parliament, where she lost her majority in an ill-judged election last year, was laid bare on Monday and Tuesday when she faced rebellions from both the pro-Brexit and pro-EU wings of her party.
She won the votes on a customs and a trade bill, but suffered an unexpected defeat on a separate amendment, which means her government must now seek continued participation in the European medicines regulatory framework.
But the government’s approach to securing victory in parliament has not only deepened divisions in her party, but also raised the issue of trust.
One Conservative lawmaker told Reuters the party whips, whose job it is to enforce discipline in parliament, had threatened to call a confidence vote in May if she lost — a move that could bring down the government.
Johnson, figurehead of the Brexit campaign in the 2016 referendum, led those calls in his resignation speech to parliament. He criticized the government for handing an advantage to the EU by agreeing in the talks to a divorce bill before agreeing a future relationship.
“We have time in these negotiations, we have changed tack once and we can change again,” he said. “It is as though a fog of self-doubt has descended,” Johnson said. “We should not and need not be stampeded by anyone.”