Days after Pakistan’s insistence that the US withdraw its military personnel, Islamabad is now seeking Washington’s help in countering terrorism and in setting up an academy to train law enforcement and counter-terrorism officials in the use of explosives.
This was discussed at a meeting of the Pakistan-US Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism in Islamabad on Tuesday. A 15-member US delegation led by US Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement William Brownfield met Interior Minister Rehman Malik, officials from the interior ministry, the police and counter-terrorism experts.
The meeting remained vague in terms of whether Pakistan would allow more US military personnel on its territory, even if it was just for training.
However, the interior minister sought US assistance in the fight against terrorism and in the capacity building of the country’s law enforcement agencies against improvised explosives devices (IEDs).
“More than 11,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives to IED explosions. It is a deadly weapon in the hands of terrorists,” said Malik.
Taking note of the easily-accessible and inexpensive fertilisers, the main raw material used in the making of IEDs, Malik said changes will be made to the Explosives Act to make it more stringent and effective against illegal production and distribution of fertilisers across the country.
Brownfield said his government was committed to continuing the strategic dialogue with Pakistan. “We have shared our objectives and interests. It will lead us to conclusions that will benefit both of us,” he said. “There was a consensus here to fight the common enemy – the terrorists. We need to have a common strategy.”
Speaking about the visa controversy, Brownfield said Pakistan was a sovereign state which could not be dictated to, while Malik reminded him that the “same laws that apply to people of other nationalities, apply to US nationals trying to obtain Pakistani visas”.
However, the interior minister said that no US citizen was denied a visa, adding that some just got delayed due to procedural loopholes.
Responding to a question regarding the recent terrorist intrusion into Pakistan from Afghanistan, Malik said the matter had already been taken up with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and measures were being taken to tackle the issue.
“We take it seriously. I hope no non-state actors in Afghanistan have the same agenda as those involved in the Mumbai attacks which nearly brought Pakistan and India to the brink of a war,” said Malik.
In a joint statement issued at the end of the meeting, the US agreed to assist Pakistan in ensuring that Pakistan’s law enforcement officers are adequately equipped to combat the threat posed by terrorists.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 6th, 2011.