‘US supports Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism’: State Dept on Operation Azm-e-Istehkam

'US supports Pakistan's efforts to combat terrorism': State Dept on Operation Azm-e-Istehkam

ISLAMABAD, JUN 26: United States State Department Wednesday said Washington supports Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism after the federal cabinet approved Operation Azm-e-Istehkam.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has assured that civilian population would not be disturbed and that “only intelligence-based operations would be carried out against terrorists”, according to sources.

State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller, when asked about the new operation and the US reaction to its announcement, said: “We support Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and ensure the safety and security of its citizens in a manner that promotes the rule of law and protection of human rights.”

He, during a press briefing, continued that the Washington’s partnership with Pakistan on security issues includes its high-level counterterrorism dialogue, including funding robust counterterrorism capacity-building programmes and supporting a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements.

“Pakistani people have suffered tremendously from terrorist attacks. No country should have to suffer such acts of terror,” he said, adding that the US and Pakistan have a shared interest in combating threats to regional security.

The decision regarding the operation came after the Apex Committee last Saturday gave the go-ahead for the military operation, which is a reinvigorated and re-energised national counter-terrorism drive, to turn up the heat on militants targeting Pakistan.

The PM’s Office (PMO) had said that the new counter-terrorism push was approved with the consensus of all stakeholders including the four provinces as well as Gilgit Baltistan (GB) and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).

However, opposition parties including the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam Fazl (JUI-F), Awami National Party (ANP), and others have voiced concerns over the military operation, demanding that parliament must be taken into confidence before taking any such decision.

Mob violence

Meanwhile, Miller was also questioned about the spate of religiously-motivated mob violence and attacks in the country and how concerned Washington was about the rise in such incidents.

“As we have previously stated, we are always concerned by incidents of religiously motivated violence. Violence or the threat of violence against another person is never an acceptable form of expression, and we oppose blasphemy laws everywhere in the world, including in Pakistan,” said Miller.

He added that such acts jeopardise the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion or belief.

The spokesperson maintained that US continues to urge Pakistani authorities to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all.

“Both — we make that clear both publicly and privately. This includes freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to peaceful assembly,” he said.

When questioned about taking up the matter before authorities in Islamabad with regards to it being on the ‘Country of Particular Concern’ list, Miller said that Washington regularly engages with its Pakistani counterparts on issues of human rights, including religious freedom and the treatment of religious minorities.

“We have made this clear not only in Pakistan’s designation as a Country of Particular Concern, but also in the Department’s Annual International Religious Freedom Report and Country Report on Human Rights Practices.”