Pakistan vows not to allow militants to plot attacks
Wed Jul 23, 2008, Reuters
By Zeeshan Haider
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan said on Wednesday it would neither allow Islamist militants to plot attacks on its soil nor let foreign troops take military action on its territory.
The declaration by leaders of Pakistan's three-and-a half-month old coalition came amid growing fears that the United States might take unilateral action against al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries in tribal areas on the Afghan border.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani called a meeting of his coalition partners to discuss deteriorating security in Pakistan as he prepares for his first official visit to the United States.
While stressing that the main thrust of the government's policy would be "political engagement of the people" to counter militancy, the coalition said it would not allow anyone to challenge its authority.
"Pakistan's national security and internal stability is paramount," the government said in a statement after the meeting.
"The coalition partners also reiterated that Pakistan's territory will not be used for terrorist attacks nor will attacks from external forces on Pakistan's sovereign soil be tolerated."
Washington backs Islamabad's strategy of using tribal elders to persuade militants to stop fighting, but worries that Taliban groups have used the breathing space provided by talks to intensify cross-border attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.
A Pentagon report last month described militants' sanctuaries in Pakistan as the biggest threat to Afghan security.
While militant violence is resurging in Pakistan, mainly in the northwest, the new Pakistani government is facing tremendous pressure from its western allies and neighbors to do more to stem flow of insurgents into Afghanistan.
Residents in Pakistani tribal areas have reported increased activity by pilotless U.S. drones in recent weeks, stoking worries of a U.S. strike against militants on Pakistani territory.
U.S. President George W. Bush last week said he was "troubled" by al Qaeda's presence in Pakistan and would discuss it with Gilani when they meet in Washington on July 28.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also accused Pakistan's security apparatus of being behind a string of recent attacks in Afghanistan, including a suicide bombing outside the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people.
Pakistan has denied involvement.
The new coalition led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was formed after February elections inflicted a humiliating defeat on allies of President Pervez Musharraf.
A split between the PPP and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party over how to deal with Musharraf has paralyzed the government at a time when it is faced with an Islamic militant threat, an economy in trouble and power and grain shortages.
Musharraf has shown no sign of standing down despite growing unpopularity.
Meanwhile, the military announced on Wednesday it was winding up an operation against the militants near the northwestern town of Hangu. The army was called in after militants killed at least 15 paramilitary troops and kidnapped nearly 50 soldiers and government officials to press for the release of their jailed comrades.
(Additional reporting by Augustine Anthony; Editing by Paul Tait)
Ruling coalition supports negotiations in FATA
The News, July 23, 2008
ISLAMABAD: The ruling coalition has agreed to engage in dialogue rather than launch operation in FATA to resolve issues.
Chief Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman (F) talking to media said all the leaders have unanimously decided to bring the matters relating to countries sovereignty be brought before the Parliament.
“All the (coalition) leaders attended the meeting with the spirit of true patriotism because the country’s sovereignty is under threat,” he said.
It was also decided that the foreign forces be told that Pakistan will never compromise on its national interests.