ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said on Tuesday that his country was willing to set up joint patrols with Afghanistan to combat militants along their porous border.
His remarks came weeks after President Donald Trump called on Pakistan to do more to eliminate militant sanctuaries, a long-standing US demand.
“We are open for joint patrolling, we are open for joint posts” along the border with Afghanistan, Mr Abbasi told reporters in Islamabad.
“We will put up a fence there; the Afghans are welcome to put up another fence on their side,” he said.
Abbasi points out US has not issued demands over Afghanistan
The prime minister denied Pakistan was harbouring militants, insisting it was “fighting agents of chaos”. “All the criminal elements we are fighting are based in Afghanistan,” Mr Abbasi said.
Mr Trump called on Pakistan to eliminate militant sanctuaries in a speech laying out a new strategy to try and win the 16-year-old war in Afghanistan.
Mr Abbasi said his government had yet to receive any specific demands from the Trump administration, adding that Pakistan would act on any information shared by US authorities.
He denied the accusations that Pakistan supported militant groups as he batted away suggestions that Mr Trump’s comments would upend relations between the Cold War allies.
“We don’t think the Pakistani-US relationship will be defined by Afghanistan,” the prime minister said.
“This relationship (is) 70 years old (and) cannot be redefined by one issue or it should not be redefined by one issue.”
Following Mr Trump’s remarks, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson cautioned that Pakistan could lose its status as a major American ally and see its US military aid suspended.
Mr Abbasi however said he was unaware of any looming ‘punishments’, adding Washington had not issued demands to Pakistan on the matter.
“We have not received any list of measures,” he said. “We are open (with the US). We are transparent. We have nothing to hide.”
“We intend to work and cooperate with the US against terrorism and if both countries have any concern it should be addressed,” the prime minister said. “We respect others’ sovereignty and expect the same from others.”
He said Pakistan had suffered massively due to instability in Afghanistan and believed that the solution should be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned.
He said that Pakistan had lost more than $120 billion in the war against terrorism.
He said that Pakistan had defeated the menace of terrorism, asking the Pakistan-based foreign correspondents to visit Miramshah and see for themselves how Pakistan’s military had cleared the area by offering sacrifices.
About the recent BRICS declaration, the prime minister said the statement was not specific to Pakistan. There was no difference in the policy of the Pakistani and Chinese governments, he added.
In response to a question about Pakistan’s mediation with Gulf countries, he said: “We look upon it as a family issue that needs to be resolved between two brothers.”
Mr Abbasi did not foresee going to the IMF and hoped that the government would achieve its economic targets with prudent economic policies.
He said the devaluation of rupee was not on the cards.
Published in Dawn, September