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Pakistanis protest against US following Trump’s criticism

Hundreds of people rallied across northwestern Pakistan on August 28 to protest U.S. statements that the country is providing safe havens to extremist groups.

The demonstrators chanted slogans against the United States in Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, as well as in Swat district and Mohmand, Bajaur, and Khyber tribal areas.

The protests were mostly led by the local leaders of the Jumat-e-Islami (JI) and Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUI) religious parties.

Similar protests were also reported in the southwestern province of Balochistan.

On August 27, police used tear gas and batons to disperse anti-U.S. protesters in the southern port city of Karachi.

Outlining a new U.S. strategy for the war in Afghanistan last week, President Donald Trump accused Pakistan of offering safe havens to “agents of chaos” and suggested relations would be adjusted.

Islamabad heavily criticized the comments, denying claims of being soft on militancy and accusing its ally of ignoring the thousands who have been killed in Pakistan and the billions spent fighting extremists.

In an apparent response to U.S. criticism, Pakistan postponed a visit by a senior U.S. diplomat due to begin on August 28.

The Pakistani Foreign Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad said Acting Assistant Secretary Alice Wells’ trip had been postponed at the request of the government of Pakistan, without giving a reason for the cancellation.

Pakistan “has much to lose by continuing to harbor terrorists,” Trump said in his speech on August 21. “No partnership can survive harboring of militants.”

The U.S. president also invited the country’s archrival, India, to provide more economic assistance and development to Afghanistan.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on August 22 that the United States could consider punishing Pakistan or cutting off its status as a major non-NATO ally if Islamabad doesn’t crack down on terrorist groups.

Pakistan is one of 16 countries to currently enjoy “major non-NATO ally” status, which allows close military cooperation.

And the top U.S. Army commander in Afghanistan said on August 26 that the United States knows that the Afghan Taliban leadership is in the Quetta and Peshawar areas.

“Support for terrorists and insurgents has to be reduced, has to be stopped,” General John Nichlson said in an interview with Afghan television channel Tolo News.

Nicholson’s remarks were rejected by Pakistani Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal, who told the Dawn newspaper that Taliban militants don’t need to hide in Pakistan since they “have control over so much land and resources in Afghanistan.”

A U.S. report found earlier this year that the Taliban controls or contests control of about 40 percent of the country.

“Pakistan is fully committed to rooting out terrorism and no other country can match us in terms of the number of sacrifices made in the war on terror,” Iqbal insisted.

Separately, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif reiterated that the United States should refrain from blaming its failures in Afghanistan on Pakistan.

“America used Pakistan as its ally, but Pakistan suffered unbearable losses in the war on terror,” he told Geo News TV on August 27. “If the U.S. doesn’t trust Pakistan, it should make preparations to repatriate the Afghan refugees Pakistan has been hosting for nearly 35 years.”

And in an interview with Bloomberg News published August 27, Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said that Trump’s strategy for the war in Afghanistan is doomed to failure.

“From Day One, we have been saying very clearly the military strategy in Afghanistan has not worked, and it will not work,” said Abbasi, who assumed office three weeks ago.

There has to be a “political settlement,” he added. “That’s the bottom line.”

Tillerson, the U.S. secretary of state, on August 27 said the administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan is designed to put pressure on the Taliban to enter into negotiations with Kabul by “sending a message…that we are not going anywhere.”

“I think the president’s been clear that this is a dramatic shift in terms of the military strategy,” Tillerson told Fox News Sunday.

 

 

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