ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan on Tuesday rejected a statement by the five emerging-market BRICS powers that militant groups in Pakistan pose a regional security concern, with its defense minister saying no such group operates freely inside Pakistan.
The minister’s response follows a statement on Monday by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa that also called for patrons of the Pakistan-based militant groups to be held to account.
“These organizations, they have some of their remnants in Pakistan, which we’re cleaning,” Defence Minister Khurram Dastagir Khan told the Geo TV channel, without specifying which groups he was referring to.
“But Pakistan, we reject this thing categorically, no terrorist organization has any complete safe havens.”
The foreign ministry later released a statement condemning the presence of Islamic State and the Pakistani Taliban in “ungoverned spaces” inside neighboring Afghanistan.
The groups named by the BRICS include anti-India militant factions such as Jaish-e-Mohammad, which was blamed for a 2001 attack on India’s parliament, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, which India blames for cross-border attacks including a 2008 assault in its financial capital Mumbai in which 166 people were killed.
Another group the BRICS named was the Haqqani network, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban militants waging war on the U.S.-backed government in Kabul and foreign forces there.
The United States has been calling on Pakistan to do more to tackle alleged Haqqani network sanctuaries on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border, or it might cut military aid.
China is also concerned about Islamist influence spilling over from Pakistan and Afghanistan into its far-western Xinjiang region, where some members of a Muslim minority chafe at Chinese Communist Party rule.
Countries attending a December conference aimed at stabilising Afghanistan made a similar statement, naming several Pakistan-based groups as a source of concern.
Pakistan has always strongly denied offering safe havens to militants groups.
The foreign ministry in Islamabad on Tuesday issued a statement saying Pakistan was also concerned about terrorism. But it singled out the Pakistani Taliban, fighters loyal to Islamic State, the Islamic Movement of Afghanistan and the anti-Beijing East Turkestan Islamic Movement.
“We are deeply concerned at the presence of (these) groups ... in the ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan as they pose a threat to peace and security in the region,” the statement said.
Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Robert Birsel