Don't care about US threats
Says Nawaz Sharif after Trump vows to cut aid over harbouring terrorists
Pakistan's former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a press conference yesterday asserted that the PML-N government does not care for United States threats to cut funding to Islamabad in the war against terrorism.
The former premier's statements come amid a war of words between Islamabad and Washington, as President Donald Trump lashed out at Pakistan in a harshly-worded tweet on New Year's Day after which the administration confirmed that it would withhold $255 million in military assistance to Pakistan.
Describing Trump's tweet as "non-serious" and "sad", Sharif said, "A head of state should remember the rules of engagement while addressing a fellow state."
"We should not be taunted [about US aid]," he said, speaking to reporters in Islamabad, a day after his return from Saudi Arabia, reported Dawn Online.
The ex-PM said he would "advise Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi to formulate a plan that ensures we don't need any US aid so that such attacks are not made on our self respect."
"Pakistan is the only country to have paid such a heavy price since 9/11. No other country has faced the kind of human and economic losses as Pakistan has," he said.
"We have been engaged in a war for 17 years, even though it is technically not even our war."
"The US president should know that as soon as we, the PML-N, came into power in 2013, we took effective steps to end terrorism in Pakistan," he said.
"At that time, we began Operation Zarb-i-Azb, and today the backs of terrorists have been broken and the rest will soon be taken care of. This is not 2001. A dictator is not ruling the country, and one telephone call will not scare us."
"A coalition fund should not be called 'aid'. We do not even need such a fund and our support should not be demanded in return," he asserted.
"I am sure if in 2001, a democratic government was in place in Pakistan instead of a dictatorship, then it would never have sold its expertise to the US. It would neither have sold our expertise, nor our self-respect," he added.
The United States accused Pakistan on Tuesday of playing a "double game" on fighting terrorism and warned Islamabad it would have to do more if it wanted to maintain US aid.
"They can do more to stop terrorism and we want them to do that," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.
The White House said it would likely announce actions to pressure Pakistan within days, shortly after US Ambassador Nikki Haley said at the United Nations that Washington would withhold $255 million in assistance to Pakistan, reported Reuters.
"There are clear reasons for this. Pakistan has played a double game for years," Haley told reporters. "They work with us at times, and they also harbor the terrorists that attack our troops in Afghanistan.
"That game is not acceptable to this administration. We expect far more cooperation from Pakistan in the fight against terrorism."
Pakistan civilian and military chiefs on Tuesday rejected "incomprehensible" US comments and summoned American Ambassador David Hale to explain Trump's tweet.
Pakistani UN Ambassador Maleeha Lodhi said in a statement that her country's fight against terrorism was not based on any consideration of aid but on national interests and principles.
"We have contributed and sacrificed the most in fighting international terrorism and carried out the largest counter terrorism operation anywhere in the world," Lodhi said. "We can review our cooperation if it is not appreciated."
Relations with Washington have been strained for years over Islamabad's alleged support for Haqqani network militants, who are allied with the Afghan Taliban.
In 2016, Taliban leader Mullah Mansour was killed by a US drone strike inside Pakistan and in 2011, al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was found and killed by US troops in the garrison town of Abbottabad.