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References to Pakistan in US Senate bill ‘completely unwarranted’: FO

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ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Wednesday described the draft legislation that was recently introduced in the United States Senate as “completely unwarranted”, and “inconsistent with the spirit of Pakistan-U.S. cooperation” in Afghanistan since 2001.

“We see that a debate is underway in Washington both in the media and on Capitol Hill to reflect on and examine the circumstances leading to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan,” said Foreign Office Spokesperson Asim Iftikhar in response to media queries about draft bill introduced by some U.S. Senators.

He said, “The draft legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by a group of Senate Republicans seems to be a reaction to this debate.” However, the spokesman said the references to Pakistan in the bill were “completely unwarranted”.

Terming those references as “inconsistent in spirit” with Pak-US cooperation on Afghanistan since the American invasion in 2001, he recalled that Pakistan had facilitated the Afghan peace process and helped evacuate citizens of the US and other countries from Afghanistan in August.

He said that Pakistan had consistently maintained that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. “Similarly, a coercive approach will not work and the only way to achieve long term sustainable peace in Afghanistan was through engagement and dialogue”, he added.

Moreover, the Spokesperson said that sustained security cooperation between Pakistan and the United States would remain critical in dealing with any future terrorist threat in the region. “Such proposed legislative measures are, therefore, uncalled for and counterproductive,” he concluded.

The proposed bill

Twenty-two US senators have tabled a bill in the US Senate, demanding a deeper investigation into the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan and sanctions on the group as well as those who assisted them in driving out the Ashraf Ghani-led regime.

The ‘Afghanistan Counterterrorism, Oversight, and Accountability Act’ seeks to establish a task force that will focus on continued evacuation of American citizens, legal permanent residents and Special Immigrant Visa holders from Afghanistan.

The bill seeks to tackle issues related to the Afghan withdrawal, such as counterterrorism strategies and sanctioning the Taliban for alleged human rights abuses in the country.

The legislation also requires “an assessment of support by state and non-state actors, including the government of Pakistan, for the September 2021 offensive of the Taliban against the Panjshir Valley and the Afghan resistance”.

‘Pakistan being scapegoated’

Reacting to the development, federal Human Rights Minister Shireen Mazari said that Pakistan will once again be made to pay a heavy price for being an ally of the US in the ‘War on Terror’.

“Twenty years of presence by economically and militarily powerful US & Nato left behind chaos with no stable governance structures. Pakistan is now being scapegoated for this failure,” she said.

“This was never our war. We suffered 80,000 casualties, a decimated economy, over 450 drone attacks by our US ‘ally’ and the disastrous fallout of these attacks on our tribal areas and people,” she said. She called on the US Senate to do “serious introspection”.