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Updated: May 10, 2014 20:34 IST

Burns urges Pakistan to deny militant groups safe haven

Meena Menon
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A file picture of US Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns.
PTI A file picture of US Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns.

US deputy secretary of state William J Burns on Friday urged Pakistan Prime Minister Muhammed Nawaz Sharif to sustain pressure on militant groups, deny them a safe-haven and prevent cross-border attacks.

In a statement issued by the US state department late last night, Mr. Burns said countering cross-border militancy and shutting down safe havens is critical not only for Pakistan’s long-term peace and prosperity, but also for positive relations between Pakistan and all its neighbours, including Afghanistan.

“We appreciate Pakistan’s efforts to further Afghan-led reconciliation and we remain hopeful that we will conclude a Bilateral Security Agreement later this year that will enable us to continue to train, advise, and assist Afghan forces and go after the remnants of core al-Qaeda. This is deeply in our interest and in the interest of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the rest of South and Central Asia,” he said.

This is not the first time that the US has asked Pakistan to dismantle safe havens for militants. US secretary of defence Chuck Hagel during a visit to Pakistan last December reviewed shared concerns with the Pakistani leadership regarding the activities of terrorist groups, including the Haqqani network, on Pakistani territory.

During his visit, Mr. Burns met Mr. Sharif, apart from the Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Advisor to the Prime Minister for National Security and Foreign Policy Sartaj Aziz, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister Tariq Fatemi, Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif and Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry.

He also stressed that President Obama remains firmly committed to the shared goal of a stable, secure, and prosperous Pakistan. After some difficult years, the relationship between the US and Pakistan is on a positive trajectory, he pointed out, adding that it was a trajectory which the US hoped to not only maintain, but accelerate. He said Prime Minister Sharif and Finance Minister Dar have undertaken courageous economic reforms, and concrete steps to expand regional economic linkages, including with India. “As Pakistan’s partner, we will do our part to be as supportive as we can. We’ve already made a number of strategic investments that have contributed to Pakistan’s economic growth, from funding the construction and rehabilitation of nearly 900 kilometers of roads to nearly $900 million in energy sector assistance which will add 1400 MW to Pakistan’s power grid by the end of 2014,” he said.

He said that militancy continues to threaten Pakistan’s revival. Few countries have paid a heavier price than Pakistan in the fight against extremism. He also said he had the opportunity to emphasize the strong commitment to, and support for, a free and responsible press here in Pakistan and around the world, according to the statement.

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