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Taking on Trump

by Newsweek Pakistan

Win McNamee-Getty Images North America—AFP

Trying to adopt a flexible attitude to the U.S. president’s rhetoric will be a losing proposition for Islamabad

The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz)-led government got together on Thursday with the Pakistan Army during a National Security Committee (NSC) meeting to issue a “worthy” repartee to U.S. President Donald Trump’s allegations that Pakistan permits safe havens for militants within its territory. Firmly denying the charge, the NSC statement demands “effective and immediate U.S. military efforts to eliminate sanctuaries harboring terrorists and miscreants on the Afghan soil, including those responsible for fomenting terror in Pakistan.”

Since the people of Pakistan and the opposition parties were watching, the statement added a reference to Kashmir too—thus connecting the crisis in Afghanistan to India—and condemned “state-inflicted repression on the people of Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir.” And in clear opposition to Trump’s go-ahead to India to intervene in Afghanistan, the statement declared: “India cannot be a net security provider in the South Asia region when it has conflictual relationships with all its neighbors and is pursuing a policy of destabilizing Pakistan from the east and the west.”

Pakistan’s assertion that Trump’s accusations are false has been challenged by U.S.-based The Long War Journal, whose website is blocked in Pakistan: “Pakistan’s denial is laughable on its face. For decades, the country has permitted a number of jihadist groups to openly operate under its aegis. Many of these groups—such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Harkat ul-Jihad-e-Islami—were created with the support of Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate.”

Tragically, it will be suicidal for any government in Pakistan to adopt a flexible hence negotiable position on the situation created by President Trump’s wild pronouncements. In the coming days, Afghanistan will be incentivized to get closer to its fellow-SAARC member India, which in turn will ratchet up cross-border RAW-inspired terrorism inside Pakistan. This will deepen Pakistan’s internal political and economic problems with a world less and less inclined to come to its assistance. The American commitment is bound to peter out even after any correction of President Trump’s extremism, and Afghanistan will become an Indo-Pak battleground where Pakistan will be more vulnerable than India is in Kashmir.

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