ISLAMABAD    -    Pakistan on Thursday said that a US-designated proclaimed offend­er was hiding in Afghanistan where militants still have safe havens. 

“Pakistan as well as the interna­tional community have sufficient reasons to believe that there are still pockets of ungoverned spac­es in Afghanistan that have been used by terrorist groups as safe havens,” Foreign Office spokesper­son Asim Iftikhar Ahmed said at a weekly news briefing. 

In the recent days, Pakistan and Afghanistan have been engaged in a new diplomatic spat over de­funct Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar. 

Pakistan had reportedly written a letter to the Afghan authorities regarding the presence of Maulana Masood Azhar, the founding head of the banned JeM in Afghanistan. 

However, Afghanistan’s Taliban government has denied reports about the presence Masood Azhar in the war-torn country, defiantly accusing instead that such terror­ist organisations “can operate” on Pakistan’s soil – and even under “official patronage.” 

To a question about presence of the UN designated individual in Afghanistan, the FO spokesper­son said that the “person is a pro­claimed offender and wanted in numerous terrorism-related cases in Pakistan.” 

He said Pakistani authorities had formally raised the issue with the relevant Afghan interlocutors on multiple occasions. 

The spokesperson said that mul­tiple deadly cross border terrorist attacks from Afghanistan only in­crease these legitimate concerns. 

He urged the Afghan interim au­thorities to take concrete and ver­ifiable actions to deliver on the as­surances they have given to the international community that they will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against any country. Ahmed warned that any attempt to destabilise Pakistan will not be tolerated. The spokesperson re­jected Indian rumours regarding any stoppage of work or abandon­ment of the Neelum-Jhelum Hy­dropower Project. 

He said India was once again churning out false and baseless reports regarding the Neelum-Jhelum Hydropower Project. 

He said a fault was detected in the project and is currently under­going remedial works for which the concerned entity, Gezhouba Group of China, had been contacted. 

Ahmed said the group had al­ready attained full mobilisation at the site and at present, the work is proceeding smoothly without any interruption with completion ex­pected in 2023. 

The spokesperson said that there is no truth in any report of work stoppage or so-called aban­donment. He said these reports are aimed at misleading the public as well as part of malicious prop­aganda efforts to fuel controversy around Pakistan-China relations. 

He said such attempts will not succeed as all-weather strate­gic cooperative partners are ful­ly committed to strengthening bi­lateral cooperation for the benefit of both countries and people. The spokesperson said that the main challenge faced by Pakistan right now, with over 33 million of com­patriots affected, was the floods. 

“Floods have taken over 1400 lives and injured more than 13000 people. Besides huge damage to critical infrastructure and servic­es, over 1.7 million houses have been damaged or destroyed, near­ly 800,000 livestock have per­ished, and over 4 million acres of food crop have been lost; the im­pact on lives and livelihoods is enormous,” he elaborated. 

The spokesperson said it was evident that Pakistan had to face the brunt of this unprecedented climate-induced disaster despite minimal contribution to the glob­al carbon footprint. 

“So while our people are suffer­ing from the direct consequences of climate change, it is clearly the shared responsibility of the inter­national community to do their ut­most to assist the millions of af­fectees return to normal lives and livelihoods in a sustainable man­ner,” he added. 

Welcoming the global response, he said the visit of UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres this month was instrumental, not only to manifest international solidari­ty with the people of Pakistan, but to highlight the linkage of this ca­tastrophe with climate change. 

“Other dignitaries also visited Pakistan to show solidarity and support including the Canadian Minister for International Devel­opment Harjit Singh Sajjan. Sa­mantha Power, Administrator of United States Agency for Interna­tional Development (USAID) also called on the Prime Minister, as well as Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari,” he said. 

As part of the ongoing relief ef­forts, he said, “as of today, more than 100 flights have been re­ceived from our internation­al friends and partners, carrying much needed assistance.” 

Ahmed said the ongoing relief work and the transition to the re­habilitation and reconstruction phase are going to be the focus of our national efforts and inter­national outreach in the coming weeks and months. “This, together with climate change, will be among our top priorities, as you will see at the SCO, and the upcoming UNGA Session in New York and beyond including the COP-27 scheduled to be held in Egypt,” he added. 

On Kashmir, he said the unabat­ed wanton state-terrorism by the Indian occupation forces result­ed in martyrdom of three more young Kashmiris in fake encoun­ters in Shopian and Islamabad dis­tricts of Occupied Kashmir. 

“This brings total extra judicial killings since 5th August 2019 to 670 and since 1st January 2022 to 150. Today the Indian Illegal­ly Occupied Jammu and Kashmir is the world’s most heavily milita­rised zone, which has in fact been turned into the world’s largest prison - where people are not al­lowed to speak freely; APHC lead­ership, youth, journalists, civil so­ciety and human rights defenders are jailed and silenced,” he said. 

Pakistan, he said, “strongly urg­es the international community to call upon India to end its gross and systematic violations of hu­man rights in IIOJK, revoke its il­legal and unilateral actions taken since 5th August 2019, and free all political prisoners including the true Kashmiri leaders.” 

He said a peaceful resolution of the Jammu and Kashmir dispute in accordance with the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and wishes of the Kashmiri people is indispensable for lasting peace in the region.