Pakistan ambassador to the US Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry made a fantastical claim at a Washington DC audience by insisting that there were no safe sanctuaries for terrorists in Pakistan. Chaudhry was speaking at a panel discussion on ‘Regional perspectives on the US strategy in Afghanistan’ at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center, Washington DC on Wednesday.
“Terrorism under any pretext is not acceptable to us (Pakistan),” Chaudhry said.
Though diplomacy is all about keeping a poker face even when such claims are being made, the other panelists and the audience could not hold themselves and burst into laughter on his claims.
A visibly irritated Chaudhry reportedly said, “What is so funny about this?”
“What sanctuaries you are talking about? If you want to live in the past, you cannot solve the present. Haqqani and the Taliban are not our friends. They are not our proxies. What Quetta Shura you are talking about? What Peshawar Shura?” the Pakistani ambassador desperately tried to justify his claims.
He went on to say that Pakistan wishes to see a peaceful, stable, prosperous, and sovereign Afghanistan. He added that that Mullah Omar – who died in a hospital in Karachi – never left Afghanistan.
The audience continued to be amused.
Reactions were not limited to amusement and laughter though. The former US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad, who had served as his country’s ambassador to Afghanistan, tore into Chaudhry’s claims in a point by point rebuttal.
“We have very firm evidence of his (Mullah Omar) presence in Pakistan, where he went, lived, hospitalized,” Khalilzad said, adding that for a long time there was the idea that Osama bin Laden never left Afghanistan.
Former Indian minister Manish Tewari and top American think-tank expert Ashley Tellis too joined Khalilzad saying that terrorist safe havens continue to exist in Pakistan and there is sizable support from Pakistani establishment to run the terror factory.
Tewari said it is time that Pakistan should introspect as to why the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani who went to Rawalpindi to meet the Pakistan Army Chief has turned against Pakistan. Tellis said while the safe havens continue to exist in Pakistan and there is no denying that the Taliban leadership are based in Pakistan.
Afghan diplomat, Muhammad Asad, and Afghan woman journalist Nazira Karimi also challenged Chaudhry’s claim about terrorist safe haven.
“Our allegation is evidence based,” Asad said adding that it is time for the US to look the other way around. Karimi referred to the allegations of US lawmakers about continued terrorist safe havens in Pakistan.
It is not known if the Pakistani envoy later locked himself in the hotel room to either laugh or cry.