WASHINGTON – Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Friday firmly rejected suggestions that his country was involved in a deadly bombing this week outside the Indian Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Qureshi, after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, also deflected criticism that his government was not doing enough to combat militants operating in lawless tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. Pakistan is doing "everything that is possible," Qureshi told reporters outside the State Department, and it "will do so in our own interest."
Critics in Washington have pressed Pakistan to more firmly address a rise in militancy and have expressed frustration with the new government's pursuit of peace deals with tribes in the region.
In later comments, the foreign minister said it was "baffling" to hear people insinuating that Pakistan was responsible for violence in Afghanistan. Afghan officials have put the blame for Monday's suicide bombing at the Indian Embassy on a regional intelligence agency, widely seen as a reference to Pakistan. The bombing killed dozens, and Indian diplomats say it was an attempt to discourage Indian aid projects in Afghanistan.
"What we are telling our friends in Afghanistan is the disturbances that they are seeing, the increase in violence they are seeing in Afghanistan is not of Pakistan's creation," Qureshi told an audience at the Brookings Institution think tank. "A lot of your problems are internal in nature."
Pakistan and Afghanistan regularly criticize each other for failing to fight extremists operating along their long, remote, mountainous border. The United States views the region as crucial to stopping terrorism.
Qureshi said that Pakistan's ability to build a healthy economy, tackle energy shortages, fight militancy and lift thousands from poverty depends on stability in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has "paid a price" for its neighbor's violence, he said. "A lot of the ills that we have in Pakistan" are because of Afghanistan.
Qureshi is a member of the Pakistan People's Party, which swept to victory in February elections after the assassination of its leader, Benazir Bhutto. The party leads a fledgling coalition government that has eclipsed former army strongman and U.S. ally President Pervez Musharraf, who took power in a 1999 coup.
On Thursday, Qureshi met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who agreed to Pakistan's request to establish an independent commission that will investigate Bhutto's killing.
Tension between the U.S. and Pakistan have been high after Pakistan said U.S. aircraft killed 11 of its soldiers at a border post in June. U.S. officials have said coalition aircraft dropped bombs during a clash with militants. The United States, Qureshi said Friday, understands the need to respect Pakistan's sovereignty.