Zardari arrives in Britain as envoy warns of terror backlash

September 14th, 2008 - 5:35 pm ICT by IANS  

Pervez MusharrafLondon, Sep 14 (IANS) Pakistan’s new president Asif Ali Zardari arrived here Sunday for talks aimed at persuading the US to end anti-terror strikes on Pakistani soil, with his envoy warning such attacks could provoke a backlash in Britain.Hours before Zardari arrived to ring the curtain down on nine years of security cooperation between the West and former military dictator Pervez Musharraf, the president’s envoy in London issued a stark warning on the US strategy in Pakistan.

“This will infuriate Muslims in this country and make the streets of London less safe,” said Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s new high commissioner and a close confidant of Zardari.

“There are one million Pakistanis in the diaspora here and resentment is mounting. I’m being flooded by text messages from community leaders saying we must organise our anger. The Americans’ trigger-happy actions will radicalise young Muslims. They’re playing into the hands of the very militants we’re supposed to be fighting,” he told the Sunday Times.

Zardari’s arrival is aimed at ending a recent rift with the US over how to tackle growing lawlessness in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan - home to a growing number of not only Taliban terrorists but also their Al Qaeda allies on the run from Iraq.

Hasan’s warning came after British Premier Gordon Brown said in his weekly press conference Thursday that the porousness of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border was a problem, as was the Taliban’s “new tactics” of roadside bombings.

Brown, asked to comment on the US tactics of hot pursuit of terrorists across the border, said: “The increasing insecurity in the border region is a problem for both Pakistan and Afghanistan. We need a new security strategy to deal with this problem.”

“There are of course means with which we are trying to prevent people from moving back and forth. This is a matter I will discuss not only with President Zardari, but also with President Bush in my video-conference with him (last Thursday),” Brown said. Brown also said Britain must maintain its presence on the frontline in Afghanistan to ensure terrorist threats were not exported back to “our streets.”

But Hasan had a further word of warning for the British, saying: “We hope they will help convince the Americans to stop it, to give space to our fledgling democracy and revive our economy. Otherwise the army will take over. Is that what they want?”

A number of prominent Pakistanis in Britain are urging the British government to try and persuade Washington to roll back its anti-terror strategy in Pakistan.

They include Pakistani-origin MP Lord Nazir Ahmed, and “several other MPs are also active in this regard,” Hasan told the Pakistani news channel ARY.

Zardari’s two-day visit is ostensibly private, to do with the education of daughters Bakhtawar and Asifa. But he is scheduled to meet Brown and his foreign minister David Miliband Monday.

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