ISLAMABAD - Lauding the efforts being made by Pakistan and its willingness to keep cooperating in the fight against terrorism, US Centcom Commander Gen Joseph L Votel yesterday stressed that Pakistani soil should not be used by terrorists against its neighbours.
General Votel, who is heading a military delegation on a two-day visit to Pakistan, called on Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi on Saturday.
“In his discussions with Pakistani leaders, he [Gen Votel] emphasised that all parties must work to ensure that Pakistani soil is not used to plan or conduct terrorist attacks against its neighbours,” read a statement from United States Central Command (Centcom).
The US embassy quoted Votel as saying, “Military cooperation, and even stronger cooperation with Pakistan, is very important, and we deeply appreciate the hospitality and willingness to continue an honest and open relationship.”
He said that the United States values its relations with Islamabad and fully understands its importance in achieving the objective of peace and security in Afghanistan, according a press release by PM’s office.
General Votel also underscored that the South Asian review undertaken by the US would take into account Pakistan’s efforts in fighting terrorism and its commitment to peace and security in Afghanistan.
The prime minister, one the other hand, underscored that Pakistan has an important stake in peace and stability in Afghanistan as it has suffered the most due to the conflict in that country.
“Pakistan is committed to its support for the Afghan people. This has been manifest by the presence of more than 5 million refugees in Pakistan for over three decades,” Abbasi said.
Prime Minister Khaqan Abbasi said that Pakistan continues to support the Afghan government and its society in many ways including scholarships to Afghan students and infrastructural development.
He expressed concern about the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan which could threaten all its neighbours.
The prime minister however agreed with General Votel on the importance of working closely to address issues of regional concerns.
He referred to the unacceptable situation of human rights in Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir where a very large Indian military presence was used for the oppression of the innocent Kashmiri people, who only sought the realisation of their right to self-determination.
Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, Defence Minister Khurram Dastgir, National Security Adviser Lt-Gen (r) Nasser Khan Janjua and Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua were also present during the meeting.
The Centcom Commander had met Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa the other day and both sides had a delegation level meeting, focusing Afghanistan.
The GHQ meeting came on the day President Trump had gathered his national security team at Camp David to devise a new strategy for Afghanistan to end the stalemate in the 16-year bloody conflict.
As American media reported on Friday that the meeting had failed to produce any concrete results, Trump tweeted that important decisions had been made which would be revealed at a suitable time.
NWA Visit - The US military delegation also visited North Waziristan Agency on Saturday. The team was briefed about Pak Army’s operations in NWA and about Pak-Afghan border security mechanism through enhanced surveillance measures.
The delegation was also briefed about progress on the socio-economic developments including return of Temporarily Displaced Persons (TDPs).
The visiting dignitaries appreciated efforts and sacrifices of Pakistan Army and local tribes for re-establishing peace and order in the area. They also realised the importance of Pak-Afghan bilateral border security coordination.
Later the delegation visited APS Miranshah and interacted with students.
Earlier, upon their arrival in North Waziristan, the delegation was received by Peshawar Corps Commander Lt-Gen Nazir Ahmad Butt. Chief of General Staff Lt-Gen Bilal Akbar accompanied the delegation.
Islamabad, Kabul agree to enhance cooperation
On the other hand, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Nasir Andesha, who is also on a visit to Pakistan, called on Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua.
According to press statement, they discussed ways to strengthen cooperation between the countries in diverse fields as well as in the efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Recognising that terrorism was a common enemy of the two countries and its peoples, the foreign secretary and the Afghan deputy foreign minister agreed for deepening cooperation and coordinating in counter-terrorism efforts with a view to eliminate this menace.
The foreign secretary underlined the need for enhancing economic cooperation, trade, transit and connectivity for the mutual benefit of the people of the two countries.
In this regard, she emphasised the need of expediting infrastructure and energy connectivity projects between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Nasir Andesha is visiting Pakistan to mark the Afghan Independence Day and for the foundation-laying ceremony of the new Afghan Embassy in the Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad.
Earlier this week, Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua also visited Kabul on August 15 for meetings with Afghan leadership for strengthening bilateral engagement.