The Foreign Office on Thursday outright rejected media speculation that Pakistan’s airspace had been used for a U.S. drone strike in Kabul that killed Al Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Addressing a weekly press briefing, spokesperson Asim Iftikhar stressed that there “is no evidence of this action [drone strike] having been undertaken using Pakistan’s airspace.” Reiterating Pakistan’s support to countering terrorism in all forms in accordance with international law and relevant U.N. resolutions, he said Islamabad had already issued a very “clear statement” with regards to its views on global terrorism.
According to U.S. officials, a missile fired from a drone executed Zawahiri while the militant leader was standing on a balcony of his home in Kabul. The killing has provoked speculation over whether Pakistan allowed the U.S. use of its airspace to stage the drone strike, with some commentators also questioning if it indicated that the new Taliban government of Afghanistan had been providing sanctuary to the Al Qaeda chief.
Iftikhar, during his briefing, said there were various U.N. resolutions on countering terrorism. “Regarding Al Qaeda, I think it is clear that it is a terrorist entity, which is listed under the U.N. Security Council sanctions regime and states are under obligation to take actions that are prescribed by the U.N. Security Council,” he said, adding that Pakistan has, in the past, taken resolute actions and supported the efforts of the international community in fighting terrorism. “Some of the notable success against Al Qaeda was possible because of Pakistan’s role and contribution,” he added.
Earlier, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had also rejected reports that Pakistan’s airspace had been used for the drone strike. The Taliban, meanwhile, have claimed they had no information about Zawahiri’s presence in Kabul and have warned the U.S. against violating Afghan sovereignty by targeting anyone on its soil in future.
The Foreign Office spokesman also discussed the third anniversary of India’s unilateral abrogation of Kashmir’s special constitutional status on Aug. 5, 2019, stressing the move—and all subsequent steps—had been designed to undermine the internationally recognized disputed status of Jammu and Kashmir and alter the demographic structure of the region. He said India had not only reneged on its obligations to abide by the relevant UNSC resolutions and let the Kashmiri people exercise their right to self-determination, but had also instigated a fresh wave of terror and suppression, violating human rights and international humanitarian law, in a bid to perpetuate its illegal and forcible occupation of the disputed territory.
Iftikhar said at least 660 Kashmiris had been martyred by Indian occupation forces in India-occupied Kashmir since August 2019, adding this included a systematic campaign of oppression, extra-judicial killings of innocent Kashmiris in fake encounters and so-called ‘cordon-and-search’ operations, custodial deaths, use of pellet guns, enforced disappearances, collective punishment, and incarceration of almost the entire Kashmiri leadership. “In an attempt to hide its atrocities, India, the serial violator of human rights, has employed censorship, and crackdown on civil society, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists, who are harassed and persecuted under the draconian laws,” he added.
The spokesman also paid tribute to the struggle and sacrifices of the Kashmiri people, assuring them that Pakistan would continue to offer its steadfast support until their right to self-determination had been realized. “This support is based on complete unanimity and national consensus, which will be on full display across the country on Friday (today) and showcased by many activities and diplomatic outreach by Pakistan Missions abroad alongside the Kashmiri and Pakistani diaspora,” he added.