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ISLAMABAD: There are no “safe havens” for terror groups in Pakistan “right now”, Prime Minister Imran Khan said on Monday while admitting publicly that it was possibly not the case under previous regimes.

Addressing an international conference marking 40 years of hosting Afghan refugees in the country, he said Pakistan seeks peace in Afghanistan and instability in the war-torn neighbouring country was not in its interest.

Khan’s assertion on terror safe havens came as the Financial Action Task Force, the global anti-money laundering watchdog, began a crucial meeting in Paris where Pakistan is trying to wriggle out of being blacklisted for not doing enough to combat terror financing.

The United States, India and Afghanistan have long accused Pakistan of providing safe havens to terror groups like the Taliban, the Haqqani network, the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed. “I can tell you that there are no safe havens here,” Khan said at a conference here, also attended by UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

“Whatever the situation might have been in the past, right now, I can tell you… there is one thing we want: peace in Afghanistan.” Khan said. He admitted that it was possible that such safe heavens were operating in the country after 9/11 in the Afghan refugee camps, The News reported. “How is the government capable of checking how militants operate from the camps,” Khan said, adding that it was not possible because the Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan have had a population of over 100,000.

Meanwhile, Guterres also termed the improved security situation in Pakistan as “absolutely remarkable”, Dawn News reported. He said that Pakistan which looked like a “fortress” a few years back had now become a family station for the world body’s staff. Guterres was responding to a question regarding “Pakistan’s journey from terrorism to tourism” after a seminar at Islamabad’s National University of Sciences and Technology, the report said.

“We are witnessing the state becoming present, both from the point of view of security [… and] basic service, development in an absolutely remarkable transformation,” he said. Prime Minister Khan’s assertion on the non-existence of terror safe havens came after Afghanistan’s second vice president, Sarwar Danish accused Pakistan of allowing the Taliban to recruit new fighters from Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan to launch attacks in his country.

While Pakistan cannot fully guarantee that no Taliban militants are hiding among the huge number of Afghans living in Pakistan, Khan said his government had done all it can to prevent attacks in Afghanistan, including by building a border fence. The whole country is on the same page on Afghanistan, he said, adding that previously it was said that the government and the country’s security forces were not on the same page. However, this was not the case now, he said.

He highlighted that Pakistan was not seeking peace in Afghanistan because it has been hosting 1.4 million Afghan refugees, but because the people of Afghanistan deserve peace. Earlier, Earlier, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres in his address stated that the people of Pakistan for 40 years have responded with generosity in hosting the Afghan refugees.

“Even though major conflict has erupted in some other part of the world; Pakistan is still the second largest refugee host. I am struck by the extraordinary solidarity and compassion,” he said. At the same time, he urged the international community to step up support for Pakistan in tackling the problem of Afghan refugees.

“The global community must step up,” Guterres said. PTI