Pakistan not invaded Afghanistan but acted against terrorists’ hideouts: FO

ISLAMABAD, Mar 21 (Alliance News): Pakistan on Thursday said that the intelligence-based operation it had carried out on March 18 was not an invasion of Afghanistan but an action against the sanctuaries of terrorists hiding inside Afghanistan and posing threats to Pakistan’s security.

“Pakistan has not invaded Afghanistan. We have no designs against Afghanistan… The operation was not against the people, institutions, or military of Afghanistan. The target was the terrorists belonging to Hafiz Gul Bahadur Group, which along with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, is responsible for multiple terrorist attacks inside Pakistan,” Foreign Office spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch said in her weekly press briefing.

She said Pakistan respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Afghanistan and wanted friendly relations with the neighboring country. Both countries should work towards removing the issues hurdling the strengthening of the bilateral ties, she remarked.

She told the media that Pakistan had repeatedly conveyed its serious concerns to the Interim Afghan Government over the presence of terror outfits including TTP inside Afghanistan which have consistently used Afghan territory to launch terror attacks inside Pakistani territory.

She said the Afghan side was repeatedly urged to take concrete action to ensure that the Afghan soil was not used as a staging ground for terrorism against Pakistan.

She said following the March 16 terrorist attack in North Waziristan, Pakistan had communicated with the Afghan side and also issued a demarche, conveying serious concerns about the involvement of Gul Bahadur Group in the attack.

The spokesperson informed the media that Pakistan had shared concrete pieces of evidence with Afghan side on the presence of terrorist hideouts which was also confirmed by international observers as well as the United Nations. Besides, Pakistan also conveyed the involvement of India in sponsoring and funding terrorist groups in Afghanistan to carry out terrorism in Pakistan, she added.

Responding to the media queries regarding the statement of US Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu at the US Congressional hearing, the spokesperson said it was an internal matter of the US where the Congressmen and the Administration were involved.

She said Pakistan valued its relations with the US and believed in constructive engagement and expressed the hope that the US Congress would also continue playing a role in strengthening the ties. She observed that some statements made at the hearing regarding Pakistan showed a misunderstanding of the issues.

Coming to the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Spokesperson Baloch said Pakistan was starting work on the project within its territory, considering its significance for meeting its energy needs. She said Pakistan was also engaged with the US on the matter and had conveyed the cruciality of the project for Pakistan.

About the terrorist attack in Gwadar on Wednesday, she reiterated that Pakistan remained committed to protecting the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor projects including Gwadar Port.

Apprising the media about Foreign Minister Ishaq Dar’s ongoing visit to Brussels, she said the minister would participate in the First Nuclear Energy Summit March 21 wherein he would emphasise energy security, cost-effectiveness of clean energy and highlight Pakistan’s experience in operating the nuclear plant besides reiterating its commitment to the nuclear safety.

The foreign minister would also hold bilateral meetings with the participating leaders and his counterparts.

The spokesperson told the media that the Indian government had outlawed 14 political parties in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir including the Jammu and Kashmir Peoples Freedom League and four factions of Jammu and Kashmir Peoples League.

Pakistan urged the government of India to lift the curbs on the banned Kashmiri parties, reiterating its commitment to extending political, moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people until they were given their self-determination right under the UN Security Council resolutions.

Sharing Pakistan’s concerns about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, the spokesperson condemned the attack by Israeli forces on Shifa Hospital which had been the only partially operating medical facility. The attack constituted war crime as well as the crime against humanity, she remarked and called for making Israel accountable and UNSC’s role to declare an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

To a question, she said Pakistan had applied for membership of BRICS and was waiting for the forum’s decision in light of its proclaimed objectives of multilateralism and inclusivity.