No foreign troops in terror war: Pakistan (Second Lead)

April 7th, 2009 - 9:26 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 7 (IANS) Pakistan Tuesday politely but firmly told the US it would not permit foreign troops on its territory to take on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda in the tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, urging the creation of “mutual trust” in the struggle and a halt to the US drone attacks in the region.
Addressing a joint press conference here after talks with Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, and Richard Holbrooke, the US pointsman for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the US had accepted Pakistan’s position that it would not permit foreign troops to operate from its territory.

“The war against terrorism is not possible without mutual trust. Pakistan is a victim of terrorism and is seeking political support from Friends of Pakistan (international lobby),” Geo TV quoted Qureshi as saying.

“We neither get nor give blank cheques,” he maintained, referring to US President Barack Obama’s remarks last month while unveiling his new Af-Pak strategy asking Pakistan to live up to its commitments in the war against terror.

Mullen was quick to assuage Qureshi.

“During our meetings with Pakistan’s political leaders, we had tried to develop mutual trust. We are optimistic about the Pakistani people and leadership,” he maintained.

As for the drone attacks, the official APP news agency quoted Qureshi as saying: “We agreed to disagree on the issue and it will be again taken up in the next trilateral (Pakistan, Afghanistan, US) meeting being held in Washington next month.”

“We have conveyed the feelings, aspirations and concern of people and government of Pakistan about the drone attacks and told that these are counter productive,” Qureshi added.

Mullen and Holbrooke, who had arrived here from Afghanistan Monday evening, met President Asif Ali Zardari soon after and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Tuesday, after their meeting with the foreign minister.

“Two sides exchanged views on new US strategy for Afghanistan and regional security situation,” The News said of the meeting with Gilani.

The US officials also met former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who too expressed his opposition to the US drone strikes.

Addressing the joint press conference Holbrooke said Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US faced a common threat and had common interests.

“The US wants to assist Pakistan in countering threats. We should look forward,” he added.

Zardari, at his meeting with the US officials, that Pakistan was “fighting for its survival” but would not “succumb” to the militants.

“Pakistan is fighting a battle for its own survival,” a statement issued by the presidency quoted Zardari as saying during the meeting.

“The president said the government would not succumb to any pressure by militants,” the statement added.

The talks covered regional security issues, Obama’s Af-Pak strategy and the surge in militancy and extremism in the region, it said.

With the Pakistani Taliban threatening to carry out “two attacks a week in Pakistan”, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Monday called a meeting of the chief ministers and police chiefs of the four provinces to mull a fresh strategy to counter the growing number of terror strikes in the country.

At least 24 people, including four children, were killed and 35 others injured Sunday when a suicide bomber blew himself up at the entrance of a Shia mosque in Punjab province.

On Saturday, six police personnel were killed when a suicide bomber blew himself up at a Frontier Corps (FC) checkpost near the crowded Jinnah Super Market in a high security area of Islamabad.

On March 30, heavily armed terrorists stormed into the Manawan police academy on the outskirts of Lahore and held over 400 trainees hostage for over eight hours before the security forces recaptured the complex.

Eight terrorists were killed and three were captured alive. Eight police trainees and two civilians were also killed.

On March 3, militants attacked a bus transporting the Sri Lankan cricket team to Lahore’s Gaddafi Stadium for the third day’s play in the second Test against Pakistan.

Six players and the team’s assistant coach were injured in the assault that saw the Sri Lankan government immediately calling off the tour and flying the team back home. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians lost their lives in the attack.

As terror incidents spiral, a leading US think tank has noted that Pakistan “is a thriving sanctuary” for both Afghan and Al Qaeda militants operating in Afghanistan and that Washington needs to get Islamabad on board with its new Af-Pak strategy, though progress is nowhere near assured.

To give its strategy of negotiating with Afghan Taliban even a remote chance of success, “involvement in Pakistan is both a headache and a necessity for the United States”, global intelligence agency Stratfor said.

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