ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has said Pakistan is no longer dependent on the United States to meet its military and other requirements and would reach out to others if one source dries up.
“If one source dries up, we have no option but to go to another source. It may cost more, it may consume more resources, but we have to fight that war [against terrorism], and that’s what we emphasized to all the people that we met,” Abbasi said in his interview with Arab News.
The Prime Minister said any sanctions or restraints put on the country’s systems would only degrade the efforts to fight terror, affecting equation in the region.
“We have major US weapons systems in our military, but we’ve also diversified. We have Chinese and European systems. Recently for the first time, we inducted Russian attack helicopters,” he said.
Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi said for government, it was a complex job, facing a barrage of domestic and international challenges including terrorism, an energy deficit, and economic and regional volatility.
He said governing a country with a ballooning population of over 207 million was “no walk in the park”.
He said Pakistan being one of the largest countries in the world and a nuclear power, was confronting many issues including a challenging neighborhood, war on terror and the Afghanistan conflict,
“We have a neighbour to the east with which we’ve had several wars. They (India) are also a nuclear power. We have a dispute. They occupied Kashmir, which is our territory,” he said
To a question on next general election, the Prime Minister said, “Whatever happens, elections will happen on time and in early August. Pakistan will, God willing, have a new government. Hopefully the same party (PML-N) will come to power,” he said.
On his activities on the sidelines of UN General Assembly in New York, Abbasi said he held meetings with several key players including eight heads of state, the UN secretary-general, US Vice President Mike Pence and international investors.
He said the “candid” discussion with Pence was essential for official engagements in the future because when Trump’s policy statement on South Asia came out, there were “a lot of apprehensions on what it meant, and what it meant for Pakistan-US relations”.
“I think we moved substantially forward in that direction. Whatever concerns they (the US) have, we’ve shown our willingness to address those concerns,” he said.
He said Pakistan wants an “equal relationship or partnership with the US, like every other nation,” he said.
About Afghanistan’s situation, Abbasi said, “We can categorically state that we don’t provide any sanctuaries to anybody. The bottom line is… today we have a common objective: To destroy terror and bring peace to Afghanistan.”
“We’re partners in the war on terror, and that’s what we emphasized. We emphasized to everybody we met there (at the UNGA) that nobody wants peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan,” added Abbasi.
The Prime Minister said, “The reality today is that much of the area bordering Pakistan is controlled by the Taliban. The people we’re fighting in Pakistan today, their sanctuaries are in Afghanistan, their leadership is living there, the planning is done there, the logistical bases are there, and they regularly cross the border and attack our installations.”
“We’re fencing our border. We’re open to Afghan liaison officers. We have Afghan refugees here. So if anything is pinpointed and the intelligence is provided, we take action,” he added.
The Prime Minister said Pakistan wanted peace in Afghanistan via a solution that “is owned and led by the Afghans,” warning that Washington’s desire to include India would be detrimental.
“We don’t believe that injecting India into the Pakistan-US relationship will help resolve anything, especially in Afghanistan, where we don’t see any role for India. India has a relationship with the US. That is between them and the US,” he said.
Prime Minister Abbasi said Pakistan had fought “a very hard and vicious” war on terror, adding that “200,000 of our troops are deployed. We have 6,500 shaheeds (martyrs) in the army. We have 21,000 of our citizens who’ve been killed, including police personnel. Almost 35,000 people have been seriously injured.”
He said, “Nobody has fought a bigger war on terror than we have, with our own resources. Even the most conservative economic estimates of Pakistan’s losses are over $120 billion. It has been a very difficult war, but our army has performed very well”.