Pakistan in eye of storm: foreign minister

July 14th, 2008 - 3:33 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Benazir Bhutto

Islamabad, July 14 (IANS) Pakistan is “in the eye of the storm” and needs to take “farsighted and prudent decisions” to safeguard its interests, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said. He was responding to US President George Bush’s off the cuff remarks - over a live microphone - on the situation in Pakistan. During the course of these remarks, Bush was heard saying that the next American president would not have to worry about Iraq but about Pakistan.

“Though not official, his remarks show the real thinking of President Bush about Pakistan,” The News said Monday in a despatch from New York.

Qureshi’s statement came in response to a question after addressing the Pakistani community in New York Sunday. The foreign minister is in the US to prepare the ground for the July 27 visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

Towards this, Qureshi has met US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and other Bush administration officials. He has also met UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Expressing satisfaction over the visit, he said its three objectives had been met.

These were the UN investigation on former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder, discussions on the Afghan situation, and the “effort to convey to the US that Pakistan-US relations should not be security-centric but should be broad-based, long term, stable and people-centric”, The News said.

The US is known to be concerned over the fast deteriorating situation in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Northern Areas along the border with Afghanistan and with the peace deals the government is negotiating with the Pakistani Taliban and tribal groups in the area.

The US contends that through these deals, Pakistan will be giving up more than it will receive.

Toward this, Washington also feels that the meetings of the tripartite group comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US should be held more frequently to review the situation on the ground, share intelligence and to evolve consensus among the group’s partners.

Just how precarious the situation is can be gauged from the fact that 17 troopers of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) were killed over the weekend in a fierce gun battle in the troubled Hangu district in Pakistan’s northwest.

The bodies of the victims were handed over to the Pakistani authorities Sunday.

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