By Aamir Latif and Islamuddin Sajid
Pakistan on Tuesday expressed its "deep disappointment" over recent statements from top U.S. officials, including President Donald Trump, accusing Islamabad of providing safe havens to militants fighting in war-wracked Afghanistan.
The statement came after a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi and attended by the chiefs of the three armed forces in the capital Islamabad
Trump on Monday, in a tweet, said his country had “foolishly” given billions of dollars in aid to Islamabad, which in return allegedly provided safe havens to terrorists fighting in Afghanistan. The charge was immediately denied by Islamabad.
"Pakistan cannot act in haste and will remain committed to playing a constructive role towards an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process, not just for the sake of its own people, but also for the peace and security of the region and international community,” said a statement issued after the National Security Committee meeting.
"The loss of tens of thousands of lives of Pakistani civilians and security personnel, and the pain of their families, could not be trivialized so heartlessly by pushing all of it behind a monetary value -- and that too an imagined one,” it added.
The meeting observed that over the past several years, Pakistan’s counter-terrorism campaign has served as a bulwark against the possible expansion of scores of terrorist organizations currently present in Afghanistan -- a fact acknowledged by U.S. authorities at the highest levels.
Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan in the war against terrorism have plummeted to new lows in recent years, mainly due to a clash of interests in war-ravaged Afghanistan.
According to details released by Pakistan on Tuesday, at least 62,421 lives, including 50,000 civilians and remaining security personnel, were lost from 2003 to 2017 during the war against terror -- with a $123-billion loss to the country’s economy.
Pakistan's Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif tweeted soon after the meeting: "Pres Trump quoted a figure of $33billion given to PAK over last 15yrs, he can hire a US-based Audit firm on our expense to verify this figure & let the world know who is lying & deceiving."
China has also thrown its weight behind Pakistan after Trump’s remarks.
Lijian Zhao, China's deputy chief of mission in Islamabad, tweeted: "As we said multiple times before, Pakistan has made great efforts & sacrifices for combating terrorism, made a prominent contribution to the cause of international counter-terrorism, & international community should fully recognize this."
He was referring to a statement by Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang during his briefing in Bejing.