$1.9b spent on Zarb-e-Azb, return of displaced: Pakistan

ISLAMABAD – Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz will ask the Afghan leadership to stop making anti-Pakistan statements so that trust can be restored, Foreign Office spokesman Qazi Khalilullah said during the weekly press briefing on Friday.

He said Pakistan is committed to promoting peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan because it is in the best interest of the two countries as well as the region. “Pakistan fully supports Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process,” the spokesperson said while stressing the need to stop anti-Pakistan campaign that has been visible for some time now at various levels in Afghanistan, as it was counterproductive and did not serve the best interests of the peoples of the two countries

Sartaj Aziz is visiting Kabul to meet Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and hold talks with his Afghan counterpart, Hanif Atmar, on the sidelines of a regional conference. Aziz will lead Pakistan delegation at the Ministerial Meeting of the Sixth Regional Economic Conference on Afghanistan (RECCA-VI), but the visit is seen very important as he will hold bilateral meetings that could help reducing tensions between the two countries. Pakistan had hosted the first ever face-to-face talks between the representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban near Islamabad on July 7.

The second round was scheduled to take place on July 31, however, the meeting was postponed on the Taliban request in view of the confirmation of the death of the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar. Answering another question, he said some military officials were also part of the delegation to Afghanistan. During the adviser’s meetings with the leadership of Afghanistan, all issues of mutual interest and concern will be discussed by the two sides. As far as success of the operation Zarb-e-Azb is concerned, Pakistan has been talking about it at various forums. The spokesperson also said that Pakistan has also been sharing the impact of the operation with the Afghan side during bilateral meetings.

About the spending on operation Zarb-e-Azb, the spokesperson said that so far, an amount equivalent to $1.9 billion has been spent on the operation and return of temporarily dislocated persons. He said the entire amount has been spent from Pakistan’s own resources. Elaborating on the expenses incurred during the fight against terrorism, the FO spokesperson said that Coalition Support Fund (CSF) is reimbursement of the expenditures Pakistan incurred before the start of operation Zarb-e-Azb. Qazi Khalilullah further said talks with the US authorities for the release of CSF are underway.

He also laid stress on the fact that operation Zarb-e-Azb has been successful, indiscriminate and effective against terrorists of all kind. The spokesperson also said that the meeting between top commanders of Pakistan Rangers and Indian Border Security Force this month will take place as per schedule. Responding to a question, Khalilullah said that matters relating to trade, energy, defence, security and counter-terrorism strategy were discussed during the US National Security Adviser Susan Rice’s visit to Pakistan.

Reiterating its commitment to promoting peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, Pakistan said it believed that peace in Afghanistan was in the interest of both the countries as well as the entire region. “However, we have also said that further steps have to be decided by the Afghans themselves. We remain ready to facilitate”, Khalilullah said. To a question, he said Adviser to the Prime Minister on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz is holding meeting with the president, foreign minister and national security adviser of Afghanistan in Kabul on the sidelines of RECCA-6 meeting.

During these meetings, the spokesperson said, the adviser will convey good wishes from the people and the leadership of Pakistan to the people and the leadership of Afghanistan and Pakistan’s commitment to maintaining friendly, brotherly and good neighbourly relations with Afghanistan. Sartaj Aziz will convey “the need to stop anti-Pakistan campaign that has been visible for some time now at various levels in Afghanistan, as it was counterproductive and did not serve the best interests of the peoples of the two countries”. The adviser will also convey Pakistan’s concerns relating to security of its embassy personnel under the prevailing charged anti-Pakistan atmosphere in Afghanistan; and Pakistan’s commitment to facilitating an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process, the spokesperson added.

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