ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday rejected a claim by the BRICS Summit that militant groups based in Pakistan were a concern for the regional security, with country’s Foreign Office and the defence minister saying none of the named group operates freely inside Pakistan. “We have already said that there are no terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan,” Minister for Defence Khurram Dastgir told a meeting of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Defence, claiming that 40 per cent of Afghanistan was a safe hideout for militants. “Terrorist safe havens are found in Afghanistan. Pakistan does not fear any external aggression as its army, navy and air force are keeping a strict eye on the situation,” he said. On Monday, the leaders of the five emerging market powers, for the first time, named militant groups allegedly based in Pakistan as a regional security concern and called for their patrons to be held to account. “We, in this regard, express concern on the security situation in the region and violence caused by the Taliban, ISIS, Al Qaeda and its affiliates, including Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Haqqani Network, Lashkar-i-Taiba, Jaish-i-Mohammad, TTP and Hizbut Tahrir,” the leaders had said in the declaration. The minister said Pakistan’s defence was in strong hands and unnecessary threats were being raised after US President Donald Trump’s statements against Pakistan. He said any wrong step by US can take this region towards instability. The committee took strong notice of the hostile and threatening statement made by US President Donald Trump and top US commander in Afghanistan Gen Nicholson and adopted a condemnation resolution. The committee rejected Trump’s claim that billions of dollars in aid had been spent on Pakistan, stating that Pakistan’s economy had suffered a loss of more than $123 billion due to war against terrorism. Separately, Foreign Office (FO) Spokesperson Nafees Zakaria said that Pakistan was ‘seriously concerned’ over the threat posed by terrorism and extremism in the South Asian region. Speaking in reference to the BRICS’ leaders’ summit document, Zakaria said, “Many terrorist groups based in the region — including in Afghanistan — such as the (banned) Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and its associates like Jamaatul Ahrar (JuA) had been responsible for extreme acts of violence against Pakistani people,” Zakaria said. “We are deeply concerned at the presence of (banned) groups, like Daesh, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in the ungoverned spaces in Afghanistan as they pose a threat to peace and security in the region.” Zakaria further said that Pakistan was concerned about the rise of extremist ideologies and intolerance in the region, which have been “encouraging social stratification and systematic targeting of minorities”. Zakaria further said that Pakistan was concerned about the rise of extremist ideologies and intolerance in the region, which have been ‘encouraging social stratification and systematic targeting of minorities’. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa make up the BRICS grouping. In the 43-page declaration, China’s Xi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Brazilian President Michel Temer and South African President Jacob Zuma had said they would work together to improve global economic governance to foster ‘a more just and equitable international order’. The BRICS had called for ‘comprehensive reform’ of the United Nations and the UN Security Council ‘with a view to making it more representative, effective and efficient, and to increase the representation of the developing countries so that it can adequately respond to global challenges’. The five also pledged their opposition to protectionism, a theme increasingly taken up by host Chinese President Xi Jinping as anti-globalisation sentiment in the West poses a threat to China’s vast export markets. Published in Daily Times, September 6th 2017.