London: Britain has asked Pakistan to "dismantle" all terror groups operating on it's soil and posing a threat to it as well as to the region and beyond.
In a response to the Foreign Affairs Committee's March report on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Foreign Secretary William Hague noted that Pakistan has suffered more casualties from terrorism than any country since September 11, but nonetheless called upon the beleaguered country to do all it can to "dismantle all militant and terrorist groups operating on, and from, its soil".
Hague's response to the parliamentary committee report was submitted within hours of US action in Abbottabad last week to eliminate Osama bin Laden, nailing years of denial by Pakistan that he was not in Pakistan.
Ever since the raid that killed Osama, Pakistan has been facing questions over its role in the al Qaeda chief's stay in the country and over whether and what kind of local support network existed for him.
Hague said, "We recognise the sacrifices made by Pakistan's military, civil law enforcement agencies and people in fighting violent extremism and militancy. Pakistan's recent action against militants has been of domestic and regional
benefit, and has benefited the UK as well".
Hague said the presence of militant and terrorist groups posed a threat to Pakistan as well as to the region and beyond.
"We continue to urge Pakistan to do all it can to dismantle all militant and terrorist groups operating on, and from, it's soil," he said.
Hague said Pakistan does appreciate that there is more to be done in terms of cementing gains against militants and the UK would continue to work with Pakistan to enhance it's capacity to tackle these threats.
Noting the statement by Prime Minister David Cameron during his visit to India last year that Pakistan could not 'look both ways' on the issue of terrorism, the committee had said in it's report, "We conclude that it was inappropriate and unhelpful for the Prime Minister to have made negative remarks about Pakistan's record on counter-terrorism in India. "
"Nonetheless, we further conclude that the substance of his concerns remain pertinent," it had said.
Responding to the committee's concern on direct action by the US in Pakistan, Hague said that drone strikes were primarily a matter for the two countries.
He said, "The UK supports Pakistan's democratically elected government, together with the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan. Drone strikes are primarily a matter for the US and Pakistan. Both are key allies who are facing a shared and dangerous threat from violent extremists, who also threaten the UK."
Hague added, "There is a need for effective action, and for Pakistani ownership of the fight against violent extremism. It is important that Pakistan and the international community continue to work together to combat this common
The committee had concluded that the continuing existence of Pakistani safe havens for Afghan insurgents made it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for ISAF's counter-insurgency campaign to succeed.
It said in its report, "It is of considerable concern that the UK is in a situation where, along with its key ally the US, it is reliant upon, but appears to have little influence over, Pakistan, considering the capacity of that country substantially to affect the longer-term prospects for peace in Afghanistan."
Responding to this conclusion, Hague said Pakistan has a positive role to play in supporting an Afghan-led political settlement.
"Continued instability in the Afghanistan/Pakistan border areas is harmful to both countries and threatens wider developments. We agree with Pakistan that peace and stability in Afghanistan will not be achieved through force alone and that the key is a genuinely representative political outcome that addresses the political and economic aspirations of all Afghan citizens, and is supported by the wider region."
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