Pakistan rules out foreign troops in war against terror (Lead)

April 7th, 2009 - 5:51 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, April 7 (IANS) Holding that “mutual trust” was essential in the war against terror, Pakistan Tuesday ruled out the deployment of foreign troops in its tribal areas along the Afghan border to take on the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The US had accepted Pakistan’s position that it would not permit foreign troops to operate from its soil, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said at a joint press conference after talks with Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, and Richard Holbrooke, the US pointsman for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“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,” the foreign minister said while 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 react.

“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.

Qureshi also said Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US would hold talks in Washington May 6-7 to discuss the new strategy.

According to Holbrooke, the three countries faced a common threat and had common interests.

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

On Monday evening, soon after their arrival here, President Asif Ali Zardari told the two 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 at the meeting with Mullen and Richard Holbrooke.

“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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