ISLAMABAD: The US has urged the Pakistan government to take “strong action” against militant groups that are targeting Muslims and residents of Pakistani-origin living in the West as recruits for terrorist attacks in the West.
The message came out at a meeting between President Zardari and a visiting US delegation headed by US National Security Adviser General James Jones at the Presidency on Wednesday. For its part, Pakistan has promised action in this regard and has assured all cooperation in US investigations being conducted to establish a link between detained suspected bomber Faisal Shahzad and local militants.
Zardari told the delegation that Pakistan and the US would continue government level contacts and senior level engagements as part of a greater strategy to challenge terrorism and secure a better future for the people. General Jones reiterated America’s long-term strategic partnership with Pakistan, including support for economic opportunities in the country, according to a joint statement issued after the meeting. According to the statement, discussions covered the security situation in the region, the shared terrorist threat, the fight against extremists, and the Pak-US strategic dialogue.
President Zardari said that militancy and terrorism “was the common enemy” and that the existing robust cooperation between the two countries must continue to fight the menace. The talks provided an opportunity to review progress on the many areas addressed in the recent strategic dialogue held in Washington. Both sides expressed their commitment to strengthening ties across the spectrum of issues between the two countries, including trade, economic growth, and development.
General Jones provided an update on the ongoing investigation into the Times Square terrorist incident. Jones expressed appreciation for Pakistan’s cooperation with the US and the “tremendous sacrifice” of the Pakistani military, law enforcement agencies and people in their efforts to combat extremists. The American delegation emphasised that Pakistan should take such steps that prevent any potential terrorist from entering its borders and getting trained by militant groups. General Jones was accompanied by CIA Director Leon Panetta, US Ambassador Anne Patterson and other senior officials.
The Pakistan side included Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir. Meanwhile, Online news agency quoted military sources as saying that the US delegation also discussed with the Pakistani leadership the possibility of action against the Haqqani network, based in the North Waziristan tribal agency. However, sources said the Pakistan government would not start a new military operation in tribal regions until the present offensive reached its logical end.
Hundreds of thousands of people displaced by fighting, who are still in a quandary, must be repatriated to their homes and the affected areas must be rebuilt before opening a new front, military officials said, adding no decision would be taken against national security and ground realities would be kept in mind before launching a new operation. (WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM ONLINE)
Published in the Express Tribune, May 20th, 2010.