Faced with a fresh round of criticism from the U.S. over its handling of terrorism, Pakistan on Thursday said its cooperation on terror-related issues was premised on respect for the country's sovereignty and entailed joint actions.
Reacting to U. S. Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's veiled warning that America would do “everything to defend our forces'' in the wake of this week's attack on the American embassy in Kabul, Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua said these remarks were “not in line with the cooperation the two countries have in counter terrorism''.
Refusing to delve into the details of Mr. Panetta's remarks — including the threat to take unilateral action against the Haqqani — Ms. Janjua in turn raised the issue of ‘safe havens' and ‘sanctuaries' on the other side of the [Pakistan-Afghanistan] border from where militants have launched attacks against Pakistani border posts and villages.
“There is need to clearly address the issue in a cooperative mode and work for de-escalation in violence as violence is no solution to any problem. We are prepared to continuing cooperation in countering terrorism,'' she said, parrying most related questions on the issue with the same remarks.
Asked if Islamabad would lodge a protest with the U.S. government for Mr. Panetta's remarks and those of Vice-President Joe Biden — who this week described Pakistan as an “unreliable ally'' — Ms. Janjua remained non-committal, referring back to her response on remarks coming out of Washington.
Similarly, she sidestepped requests for more elaboration on what Pakistan would do if the U.S. carried out its veiled threat of unilateral action against the Haqqani network. Reiterating the need for cooperation in dealing with terrorism, she said: “We believe that shared objectives can be achieved in a cooperative mode.''
As for Mr. Panetta's remark that al-Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zwahiri is in Pakistan, the spokesperson's response was that Islamabad has always maintained that timely intelligence sharing is critical for dealing with high value targets. Even in the case of al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden, Pakistan's response to repeated U.S. allegations that he was here was that actionable intelligence ought to be shared with Islamabad for action to be taken.