US says it supports Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism, ensure safety of its citizens

The US State Department on Wednesday said that no country should face the kind of terrorist attacks Pakistani people have suffered from, adding that Washington has a shared interest with Islamabad in combating threats to regional security.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif-led federal government approved a reinvigorated and re-energised national counter-terrorism campaign — originally titled Operation Azm-i-Istehkam but later rebranded as Vision Azm-i-Istehkam due to opposition’s criticism — which he said symbolised national resolve to eradicate extremism and terrorism from the country.

The campaign was launched with the consensus of all stakeholders — including all four provinces, Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Jammu and Kashmir —during a meeting of the Central Apex Committee on the National Action Plan (NAP).

While responding to a question specific to the military campaign during today’s press briefing, State Department’s spokesperson Matthew Miller said: “We support Pakistan’s efforts to combat terrorism and ensure the safety and security of its citizens in a manner that promotes the rule of law and protection of human rights.”

He said that US partnership with Pakistan on security issues included high-level counterterrorism dialogue, including funding robust counterterrorism capacity-building programs and supporting a series of US-Pakistan military-to-military engagements.

“Pakistani people have suffered tremendously from terrorist attacks. No country should have to suffer such acts of terror,” he said.

‘Deeply concerned’ about Madyan lynching reports

Miller, while speaking on the lynching of a man in Madyan on alleged desecration of the Holy Quran, said the continued incidents and reports of systematic, ongoing violations were the reasons for Pakistan’s designation as a Country of Particular Concern.

A mob brutally lynched a man inside a police station on Thursday evening, and then set fire to the suspect’s body, the police station and a police vehicle.

Miller said that the State Department regularly engaged with their Pakistani counterparts on issues of human rights, including religious freedom and the treatment of religious minorities.

He reiterated that the US was extremely concerned by the reports of the lynching, adding: “We share our condolences to the family of the victim and we wish a speedy recovery to those who were injured in the mob violence.”

“Violence or the threat of violence against another person is never an acceptable form of expression, and we oppose blasphemy laws everywhere in the world […] because they jeopardise the exercise of human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion or belief,” he added.

“We continue to urge Pakistani authorities to respect the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all,” he said.

“This includes freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and the right to peaceful assembly,” he added.

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