Obama wants to reach out to Pakistani people

October 23rd, 2008 - 3:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaChicago, Oct 23 (IANS) Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he will reach out to the Pakistani people to build a lasting relationship, rather than look for temporary alliances with their government.In an exclusive interview with IANS, Obama acknowledged that the US and Pakistan must continue fighting terrorism together, but said working for the people’s social and economic welfare is important.

“While the US and Pakistan must continue to work together to combat terrorism that has claimed innocent lives in both countries and to destroy the terrorist sanctuaries along the Afghan-Pakistani border, I will make helping Pakistan tackle critical challenges like illiteracy, poverty, and lack of healthcare a key priority including by increasing aid in these areas,” Obama told IANS in Chicago where he has deep roots and the city in which he started his career as a community worker.

In what could be seen as a contrast to the Bush administration’s Pakistan policy that appeared to stress relations with the Musharraf military regime, Obama pointedly said: “I will stand up for democratic institutions, civil society and judicial independence in Pakistan.”

Underlining the orientation that an Obama administration will take if he is elected, he said: “I want to build a broad-based and lasting relationship with the people of Pakistan - not just temporary alliances with their government.”

He added: “I co-sponsored legislation with Senator Lugar to triple non-military assistance to Pakistan and sustain it for the next decade.”

Last year, while he was running in the Democratic primaries against Hillary Clinton, he courted controversy when he said that his administration could unilaterally take out Al Qaeda targets in Pakistan.

“If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won’t act, we will,” Obama said. But now with Pervez Musharraf gone, in this interview he emphasised “working together” with Pakistan “to destroy the terrorist sanctuaries along the Afghan-Pakistani border.”

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