Pakistan rejects Panetta`s remarks as `misplaced`
Islamabad: Pakistan on Saturday rejected US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta`s remarks about the presence of militant "safe havens" in the country, saying such statements were "misplaced" and "unhelpful" in bringing about peace and stability in the region.
"Pakistan strongly rejects the assertions made recently by US Secretary of Defence Leon Panetta regarding `safe havens` in Pakistan," Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan said in a statement.
"We strongly believe that such statements are misplaced and unhelpful in bringing about peace and stability in the region," he added.
Khan`s statement came a day after Pakistan`s envoy to the US Sherry Rehman said Panetta`s remarks had further reduced the space for narrowing bilateral differences. "It adds an unhelpful twist to the process and leaves little oxygen for those of us seeking to break a stalemate," she had said.
During recent visits to India and Afghanistan, Panetta had criticised Pakistan for not doing enough to tackle militants in its tribal areas responsible for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan.
Speaking in Kabul on Thursday, Panetta said the US was losing patience with Pakistan on the issue of militant safe havens on the Pakistani side of the border. While in Delhi, he said the US would continue drone strikes against militants in Pakistan`s tribal belt despite protests from Islamabad that the attacks violate its sovereignty.
Responding to these remarks, Foreign Office spokesman Khan said: "We feel that the Secretary of Defence is oversimplifying some of the very complex issues we are all dealing with in our efforts against extremism and terrorism.
"These issues need to be seen in the context of overall peace and stability in Afghanistan and the broader region."
Pakistan has repeatedly said it will not allow its territory to be "used against any country, nor will it allow any safe havens on its territory," Khan said.
At the same time, Khan made it clear that Pakistan would not accept pressure from the US to launch operations against militants in the country`s volatile tribal belt.
The US has for long been pressuring Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban in the lawless North Waziristan tribal region.
"Pakistan is following a well thought out strategy to eradicate the menace of extremism and terrorism and will follow its own time line," Khan said.
"We are fighting terrorism and extremism in our own national interest and nobody should doubt our resolve and determination in this regard. Our sacrifices remain unparalleled and our resolve unshakable," he added.
Panetta`s remarks came at a time when the US and Pakistan are set to resume key negotiations on ending a six-month blockade of NATO supply routes to Afghanistan.
Pakistan closed the supply lines after a cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 of its soldiers in November last year.
The two sides have been unable to reach a deal on the routes due to various reasons, including the fees to be paid for every NATO container and tanker passing through Pakistani territory.
Peter Lavoy, the US Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Security Affairs, is scheduled to resume negotiations on new terms of engagement with Pakistan and the reopening of NATO supply routes.
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