US Congressman seeks immediate designation of Pak as state sponsor of terrorism

Washington: A top Republican lawmaker has urged the Trump administration to immediately designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism and terminate its non-NATO ally status, asserting that Islamabad consistently defends Mumbai terror attack mastermind Hafiz Saeed and condemns US’ counterterrorism efforts.

Congressman Ted Poe said in the House of Representatives that Pakistan will not receive any financial support from the US if terrorists continue to live safely in the country.

“Now is the day of reckoning. All assistance to Pakistan must end, its Major non-NATO ally status must be terminated, and the State Department should immediately designate it as a state sponsor of terrorism,” Poe said last week, according to Congressional records.

In his remarks, the Republican Congressman from Texas slammed Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi for what he described as lecturing the US on aid.

“While I do not oppose open engagement with Pakistan, our position must be clear: Pakistan will not receive a dime of US support if terrorists continue to live safely on their soil,” he said.

“For too long the opposite has been the case. Fortunately, President Donald Trump has disrupted the status quo and suspended most of the funding we give to Pakistan, specifically calling them out for their support to terrorism. But more should be done,” he said.

Poe said if Qureshi was truly interested in restoring the relationship between the two countries, he would accept responsibility and acknowledge that countless terrorists still live inside Pakistan.

“His country has been the epicenter for extremism for decades, where extremists are still able to hold massive public rallies to incite young men to violence. This isn’t conjecture, the evidence is well documented,” he asserted.

Poe said Mumbai terror attack mastermind and the founder of the US and UN-designated terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba Hafiz Saeed operated freely in Pakistan.

Despite his role in the 2008 Mumbai attack, Saeed leads public rallies and can raise money for extremists causes, he said.

“Yet, Pakistan, including its Ministry of Foreign Affairs, consistently defends Saeed and condemns US counterterrorism efforts,” Poe said.

He said Qureshi even claimed terrorist groups that target Pakistan had safe haven in Afghanistan under the US’ watch.

“Yet it is Pakistani officials who somehow claim there is a ‘good’ Taliban, while the US makes no distinction,” he said.

“If the Foreign Minister wanted to earn our trust, his government could demonstrate good faith by taking action. This includes handing over Saeed, the leaders of the Taliban and Haqqani Network, and banning all extremist groups on its soil. But this is a fantasy,” Poe said.

The relations between Pakistan and the US nosedived this January after President Trump accused Islamabad of giving nothing to Washington but “lies and deceit” and providing “safe haven” to terrorists.

The US Congress also passed a bill to slash Pakistan’s defence aid to USD 150 million, significantly below the historic level of more than USD one billion per year.

The Trump administration had announced early this year that it was suspending security assistance to Pakistan over differences on Afghanistan.