NEW YORK: Pakistan’s new leader, stung by President Trump’s threat to crack down on his country for harboring terrorists, insisted on Wednesday that Pakistani military forces had uprooted all the sanctuaries used by Islamic extremists along its rugged frontier with Afghanistan.
“We have regained control of the area,” the prime minister, Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, said in an interview with The New York Times. “There are no sanctuaries anymore. There are none at all. I can categorically state that.”
The prime minister’s blanket denial of Pakistan’s role as a safe haven could augur a turbulent period in its relations with the United States. The success of Mr. Trump’s new strategy for Afghanistan depends on Pakistan playing a more constructive role by depriving militants of the ability to plot and carry out attacks from across the Pakistani border.
“This is a new context,” said President Ashraf Ghani of Afghanistan, in a separate interview with The Times. “It provides a new context for Pakistan to seize the opportunity for engagement.” If the Pakistanis did not do more, he said, “there will be consequences.”
But Mr. Abbasi’s claim, during his first visit to the United Nations General Assembly, suggested a familiar chasm between how Pakistani and American officials view Pakistan’s responsibility for destabilizing Afghanistan. He also denied that Pakistan possesses tactical nuclear weapons — a statement that runs counter to American intelligence assessments.
In the closing days of the Obama administration, the United States negotiated with Mr. Abbasi’s predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, to try to persuade Pakistan not to deploy these weapons, which American officials said are designed for use on the battlefield against an invading Indian army, and were therefore more at risk of falling into the wrong hands.
“We do not have tactical nuclear weapons,” Mr. Abbasi said. “We have short-range nuclear weapons,” which, he said, were not designed for battlefield use and were under the same command and control safeguards as the rest of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal.
In the interview, Mr. Abbasi said the United States did not appreciate the inroads made by Pakistani soldiers against safe havens used by the Pakistani Taliban.
“The general perception in Pakistan was that our efforts were unappreciated, and today, we are being scapegoated,” he said. “We are active partners in the war on terror. No less than that.”
On his visit to New York, Mr. Abbasi has confronted the chilly new reality of Pakistan’s relationship with the United States. Although he met on Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence, he did not get a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Trump, instead chatting with him at a reception.