President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday called for an end to drone strikes in Pakistan during a meeting with United States Special Envoy on Pakistan and Afghanistan Ambassador Marc Grossman.
President Zardari used the meeting to reiterate his call for an end to drone attacks in Pakistan, terming them counterproductive in the fight against militancy and in the battle of winning hearts. “We need to discuss alternatives on the question of drone attacks,” he added. He said that the goal of establishing long-term, sustained and durable Pak-US relations would remain elusive till the issue of the trust deficit was addressed in an effective manner.
Ambassador Grossman also met Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani for delegation-level talks at the Foreign Office.
Grossman used the occasion to bring up the case of Dr Shakil Afridi, saying that Dr Afridi should not be victimised just for helping out the US in successfully tracking down Osama bin Laden, sources privy to the meeting said. Sources said that Foreign Secretary Jilani dismissed any debate on the issue. “Afridi is being treated under the tribal laws and the case is subjudice that’s why there should be no debate over the issue bilaterally,” sources quoted Foreign Secretary Jalil as saying.
On the second day of his visit to Pakistan, Ambassador Grossman offered condolences for the victims of the tragic fires in Karachi and Lahore this week and expressed appreciation for the condolences offered by the Government of Pakistan for the loss of a US diplomat and two embassy staff in Libya.
President Zardari also expressed grave concern over the anti-Islam film produced in the US that has sparked protests demonstrations in a number of countries. Condemning the film, he stressed the need for collective action to stop the inflaming of religious sentiments of any community or faith.
In his meeting with the foreign secretary, Grossman was quick to distance the US government from the video, following Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lead. “The United States government had absolutely nothing to do with this video and we absolutely reject its content and message. In difficult times like these, the United States relies on its partnership with the government and people of Pakistan to ensure that divisive actions by individuals do not harm the safety of Pakistanis and Americans alike.”
In his meeting with Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf earlier in the day, Grossman discussed matters pertaining to bilateral relations. Prime Minister Ashraf said relations between Pakistan and the US were very important and added that Pakistan values the US as a major development partner. “We have a shared objective in fighting terrorism and need to cooperate more to get rid of this menace.”
Prime Minister Ashraf underlined that Pakistan had suffered the most, both in human and material loss, but that would not weaken its resolve to fight terrorism and extremism.“We have no other option but to fight it out so that we have peace and tranquility in the region.”
Special envoy Grossman said that the US is committed to building on recent achievements, such as the reopening of the Nato supply lines and the meeting of the Safe Passage Working Group held in Islamabad on September 5. He added that the US looks forward to welcoming Foreign Minister Khar to Washington and President Zardari to New York for the UN General Assembly this fall and also looks forward to several bilateral working groups.
As he did during Friday’s meetings with Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar and Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Pervaiz Kayani, Ambassador Grossman briefed the Pakistani delegation on the US decision to label the Haqqani group as a terrorist organisation. According to sources, the response from the Pakistani delegation was dismissive, calling it an internal matter of the US, adding that Pakistan had nothing to do with the matter.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AGENCIES)
Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2012.