US -- Pakistan Relations
Meets Zardari, Asfandyar, Shujaat, Sattar, Fazl
By our correspondent, The News, March 29, 2008
ISLAMABAD: All political leaders who met US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher here on Friday clearly said that Pakistan is not going to blindly follow the US-led "war on terror" as new parliament will decide about the cooperation Islamabad can extend to Washington.
However, Richard Boucher acknowledged Pakistan’s contribution against militancy and said the US would respect Pakistan parliament's stance over war against terrorism if the issue is discussed in the National Assembly.
Richard Boucher met PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari who was accompanied by Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Sherry Rehman and newly appointed ambassador-at-large Hussain Haqqani at the Zardari House. The meeting lasted for more than one hour.
After the meeting Zardari and Boucher held a joint press conference at which the US official said that Washington would continue its support for democracy in Pakistan and looks forward to cooperate with the new government on long-term basis.
"The United States would respect Pakistan parliament's stance on the war against terror if the issue is discussed in parliament," he said. "It is a wrong perception that we are fighting war for any other country. The PPP understands that it is a war to protect our own people and the country from terrorists," said Asif Zardari.
Zardari said he told the American official that the people of Pakistan were hospitable and willing to engage the United States through dialogue. "We are looking for a long-term and constructive relationship with the United States".
He said the PPP feels that terrorism has become more dangerous for Pakistan than for any other country, as it has reached the streets and the cities. "We want to confront terrorism with the cooperation of the world community but parliament will decide about the procedure," he added.
Replying to a question, he said the war on terror is our own war as our own people and children are becoming victim of terrorism. Replying to another question, he said the PPP stance on terrorism is the same what the people of Pakistan think it should be. "We will protect sovereignty of Pakistan at all costs," he added.
He said when the issues would be raised in parliament then it will come out with the solution. Richard Boucher said the US wanted to see Pakistan a strong democratic country and would continue to cooperate for strengthening democracy. "We hope that the new government would not only strengthen the democratic institutions but also continue to work to eradicate the terrorism from the country," he added.
He said the US wanted to work with the Pakistan government for the development of Fata, and US Congress was working on it. "We want to partner with Pakistan" as the new government "lays out its plans".
Boucher also said that "very dangerous people" are plotting attacks in the tribal areas. Partners in the new government have suggested negotiating with some pro-Taliban forces in the area.
To a question, he said the aim of the war on terror is to make Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries of the world safer and the United States is working on it.
Richard Boucher, during the day, also held meetings with other political leaders including ANP President Asfandyar Wali, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and MQM parliamentary leader Dr Farooq Sattar to get their point of view on war against terror.
Online adds: Talking to mediamen after his meeting with Boucher at the Frontier House here, Asfandyar said the United States has been informed that Pakistan cannot give more sacrifices of its people for the US.
He said the US has also been informed that the decisions taken by local tribal jirgas at the provincial level would have more importance, adding that these decisions should also be accepted in the National and Provincial Assemblies of the country.
He underlined that the United States has agreed over settling all the issues including war on terror by the Pakistan's Parliament. All the political parties of the country have agreed that there should be no military operation in the name of war on terror as Pakistan has borne more loss than any other country of the world, he added.
Responding to a question, the ANP chief said peace cannot be restored in Fata until the end of so-called war on terror, adding that hundreds of people were killed, arrested and tortured in the name of this war.
Asfandyar Wali said power is not our goal but our first priority is an end to military operation in the tribal areas. During his meeting with a delegation of Muttahida Qaumi Movement comprising Dr Farooq Sattar, Hiader Abbas Rizvi and Syed Sardar Shah, Boucher congratulated the MQM for victory in the elections. He also lauded the MQM for extending its unconditional support to Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gilani during the premier's election for broad-based national reconciliation in the country.
Our correspondent adds: Addressing a press conference after holding talks with Boucher, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said he has told the US official that matters of national importance would be discussed in parliament.
"All the decisions will be made in the Parliament which is the proper forum," he said. Chaudhry Shujaat said they discussed the overall political scenario and democratic process in the country. "It looks like Mr Boucher is here on a study tour to Pakistan and we discussed the democratic process," he said.
When the PML-Q leader was asked whether the US official sought his party's support for President Pervez Musharraf, Shujaat said the meeting "discussed institutions and not individuals".
Brushing aside the impression that the US official came to him with some proposals, Shujaat said the PML-Q does not take "dictation" and it has its own policies. "During my tenure as prime minister, I rejected pressure for sending Pakistani troops to Iraq. Rather, the matter was taken to the Parliament and after weeklong discussion, the Parliament decision was followed and troops were not sent to Iraq," he added.
APP adds: After meeting Richard Boucher, Maulana Fazl told journalists that the US delegation was asked that Washington should review its policies regarding Afghanistan and Iraq. He said the JUI-F told the delegation that the US war on terror had increased the sufferings of the people.
Fazl said the new government in Pakistan cannot afford to see continuation of American policies in the region and desired political solution to all matters instead of a war-like situation. He said the new government would have a strong foreign policy.