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Pakistan's New Leader Criticizes U.S. Policy While Praising China In UN Speech

Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at a panel discussion with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on September 20.
Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi at a panel discussion with the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on September 20.

Pakistan's new Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, in his first address before the UN General Assembly on September 21, rejected the new U.S. war strategy in neighboring Afghanistan while praising China's growing economic role in the region.

An important component of the White House's recently unveiled strategy to try to win the war against the Taliban in Afghanistan was a threat to withdraw aid and other support for Pakistan if Islamabad does not shut down what U.S. officials say are Afghan Taliban "safe havens" on its territory.

"Taliban 'safe havens' are located not in Pakistan, but in the large tracts of territory controlled by the Taliban in Afghanistan," Abassi said, repeating Islamabad's warning that Pakistani is "not prepared to be anyone's scapegoat."

Abassi said Islamabad is ready to work with Kabul to "end all cross-border attacks," and it will continue pursuing its domestic war against terrorists, which he claimed has "cleared out tribal areas of almost all militant groups" at the cost of thousands of civilian and military lives.

"What Pakistan is not prepared to do is to fight the Afghan war on Pakistan's soil. Nor can we endorse any failed strategy that will prolong and intensify the suffering of the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said.

"Apart from the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and its people have suffered the most from four decades of foreign intervention and civil wars in Afghanistan," he said. "These wars have blighted our country with the flow of extremists and terrorists, guns and drugs as well as an influx of millions of refugees."

"Having suffered and sacrificed so much," he said, "it is especially galling for Pakistan to be blamed for the military or political stalemate in Afghanistan."

Abassi asserted that neither side of the Afghan conflict will be able to win the war through military might, making peace negotiations the only way to end the 16-year conflict.

"No one desires peace in Afghanistan more than Pakistan," he said, noting that his country currently hosts over 3 million refugees from Afghanistan.

While criticizing White House policies in his speech without specifically naming the United States or U.S. President Donald Trump, Abassi spoke with warmth about China's leader and Beijing's growing role fostering economic growth in his country and the South Asian region.

"The vision of shared growth spelled out in Chinese President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road initiative offers a solid path to prosperity and a model of South-South cooperation worthy of emulation," he said.

"Pakistan's economy has recorded a remarkable revival in the past four years. The China-Pakistan Economic Corridor will further contribute to our economic upsurge," he said.

"This will expand exponentially as the Pakistan-China partnership extends beyond energy and transportation to many other sectors," he said. "Pakistan's integration into the Eurasian Belt and Road network will provide a firm foundation for Pakistan's rapid economic development."

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