A six-nation parliamentary conference has begun in Pakistan to debate challenges of terrorism and inter-regional connectivity. House speakers of Pakistan, China, Russia, Turkey, Afghanistan and Iran are leading their respective delegations at the event underway amid tight security in the national capital.
The chairman of the Pakistani Senate, upper house of parliament, used the high-profile conference to denounce what he called U.S. President Donald Trump's policy of blaming Pakistan for failures of the United States in Afghanistan. Raza Rabbani went on to criticize the Trump administration for ignoring sacrifices Pakistan has made while fighting terrorism.
"We saw two days ago that the Vice President of the United States has the gall, has the audacity to say that he puts Pakistan on notice. But let the word ring out in clear terms that Pakistan is a sovereign state and is not in the habit of taking notices from anyone, least alone the United States," Rabbani asserted.
He was referring to Vice-President Mike Pence's remarks while addressing American troops during a visit to Afghanistan Thursday. Pence said that Pakistan has for too long provided safe haven to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.
"But those days are over," Pence said. "President Trump has put Pakistan on notice….Pakistan has much to gain from partnering with the United States and Pakistan has much to lose by continuing to harbor criminals and terrorists."
The Pakistan government swiftly and sharply responded to Pence's criticism, saying "allies do not put each other on notice".
"On notice should be those factors responsible for exponential increase in drug production, expansion of ungoverned spaces, industrial scale corruption, breakdown of [Afghan] governance, and letting Daesh gain a foothold in Afghanistan. Finally, externalizing blame should be put on notice," said a Foreign ministry statement.
U.S. and Afghan officials allege that sanctuaries on Pakistani soil have enabled the Taliban and its ally, the Haqqani terrorist network, to sustain and expand insurgent activities in Afghanistan.
Pakistan rejects accusations of having ties to insurgents and cites its "unprecedented" national counterterrorism gains as its resolve against the menace of terrorism. Islamabad is also touting its deepening relations with China, Russia and other regional countries as proof of its efforts to promote peace in Afghanistan and the region in general.