ISLAMABAD - President Mamnoon Hussain said Monday it was unfair to question Pakistan's commitment to fighting terror at home and abroad, after Afghanistan hinted that Pakistani intelligence was behind a deadly restaurant attack.
President Mamnoon was speaking here at the launching ceremony of a book - “Afghanistan 2014: Decision Point,” written by Dr Maria Sultan, Director General South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI).
President Mamnoon Hussain, who has a largely ceremonial role, said Pakistan wanted a peaceful and stable Afghanistan.
His comments came after Afghanistan's National Security Council, which is chaired by President Hamid Karzai, said "without doubt foreign intelligence services beyond the border" were behind Friday's suicide attack on a Kabul restaurant that killed 21 people.
"Beyond the border" is a phrase commonly used by Kabul to refer to neighbouring Pakistan.
Mamnoon insisted his country's support for the fight against extremism was in earnest.
"Sometimes, our commitment is questioned. The reality is that, leaving aside Afghanistan, there is no other country in the world than Pakistan that has paid a higher price," Mamnoon said, according to a statement released by his office.
"Pakistan stands for a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan. We have consistently maintained that the solution of Afghanistan lies within Afghanistan."
The assault on a popular Lebanese restaurant in central Kabul left eight locals and 13 foreigners dead, including the International Monetary Fund head of mission, making it the deadliest attack on foreign civilians since the Taliban were ousted in 2001. Tasnim Aslam, spokeswoman for the Pakistan foreign ministry, declined to comment on the Afghan remarks, saying Pakistan had not been named.
"Afghans have not named us. You know that a Pakistani female working for the UN also died in that terrorist attack," she said.
Pakistan issued a statement on Sunday condemning the attack.
President Mamnoon voicing his concern over drone strikes in Pakistan said these must stop as counter-terrorism measures that violate the country’s sovereignty only serves to compound the problem.
The President said it was important that the drone strikes must not take place in Pakistan.
“These must stop as they are also counter-productive to the existing counter-terrorism drive in Pakistan,” he told the gathering comprising members of the defence and policy community. He said Pakistan wanted to constructively contribute to the realization of peace, based on the principles of equality and partnership with the international, regional and national players.
“We hope that the international community would recognize Pakistan’s positive contributions and the importance of working with Pakistan to meet the regional security challenges—as they were not just regional or Afghan problems but also impact on international security.”
He said Pakistan and the international community must work together if they were to succeed in joint endeavor to help Afghanistan reclaim its rightful position in the comity of nations.
The president said the year 2014 was indeed a crucial point in the history of Afghanistan and the region.
Being the immediate neighbours sharing many issues and challenges, Pakistan’s security was linked in multiple ways with security in Afghanistan.
He said since 9/11, Pakistan had incurred enormous human and material losses, while being a part of the international campaign against terrorism. Thousands of precious lives had been lost and the economic losses run over billions of dollars.
“Yet, Pakistan finds itself at the center of the global threat of trans-national terrorism and is also shouldering an unprecedented share of responsibility in countering this menace,” he added.
He said Pakistan stood for a peaceful, stable, united and prosperous Afghanistan.
The president said Pakistan had and would continue to support all initiatives to enable this process to move forward. “We have also stressed that all segments of Afghan society must be a part of this process and reap the fruits of peace.”
He said sustainable peace and development would come with shared responsibility and collective solutions. While efforts are being made by the international community to help Afghanistan, it was necessary to support the country’s efforts to address issues related to drugs production, illicit trafficking of small arms, and institutional capacity-building.
He said it was equally important to help build a conducive environment in the country for the honorable return of Afghan refugees and their sustainable reintegration in Afghanistan.
The president on the occasion also referred to a recent development of the grant of GSP Plus status to Pakistan.
“I greatly appreciate European Commission and the member countries of European Union for their continued support to us in getting GSP Plus status.” He said it would help economy recover the huge losses that it had suffered due to war against terror.
“I believe it would help the war affected economies recover their losses and enable the governments to give better economic prospects to the people especially those who are the worst sufferers of the conflict.”
Former Chairman Senate Wasim Sajjad in his book review mentioned in detail the write-ups of different authors about the prevailing situation in Afghanistan, the impact of the US and Nato withdrawal on the war ravaged country and its neighbours and the policy recommendations.
He said the writers believe that Pakistan has legitimate interests in peace in Afghanistan and unless a negotiated pull-out was reached, the situation may worsen.
Maria Sultan said the book gave Pakistan’s perspective to situation in Afghanistan and its impact. She said stability in Afghanistan was pre-requisite for stability in Pakistan. She also termed the mistrust between different stakeholders a stumbling block that needs to be addressed.