WASHINGTON: The United States and Pakistan need to have a common strategy to fight terrorism, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Friday as a senior US diplomat stressed the need for curbing improvised explosive devices.
The interior minister, who is in Washington for a meeting of the US-Pakistan working group on terrorism, also said that Imran Khan’s protest march to South Waziristan was a provincial matter and the KP government needed to ensure that it did not create a law and order situation.
Addressing a joint briefing with the minister at a Washington hotel, US Special Envoy Marc Grossman said the US Embassy in Islamabad was dealing with American citizens who wanted to participate in the march and had informed them that a US travel advisory prohibited them from visiting the area.
Mr Malik said “it would be good if the two countries also had a common strategy on drone strikes”.
Mr Malik, who is meeting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the secretary for Homeland Security and the FBI director, said he continued to emphasise the need for a common strategy to fight terrorism in his meetings with US officials.
Ambassador Grossman’s comments to the media, however, made it obvious that the Americans were more concerned about the IEDs.
“We have a common enemy and we must have a common strategy to fight the enemy”, Mr Malik said. “Pakistan is committed to the international community in hitting the terrorists hard and we will hit them hard”.
Mr Malik also said that he ‘forcefully’ conveyed Pakistan’s position on drones, although he did not say if he asked them to stop the strikes.
His statement highlighted the differences between the United States and Pakistan on the issue.
“The people of Pakistan have been voicing their concerns about drones and we hope that this voice of the people of Pakistan will be heard”, he said.
Ambassador Grossman pointed out that the IEDs were not just killing American soldiers, they also had killed many Pakistanis.
Advancing this argument, Mr Malik said the devices had killed more than 56,000 Pakistanis and Pakistan had started implementing a national counter-IED strategy to curb its use.
Pakistan, he said, had created a 60-kilometre zone along the Afghan border to prevent cross-border movement of ammonium nitride, which is used for making IEDs. The material is also used in fertilisers.
“We are an agrarian country, and fertilisers are important”, said the minister while explaining Pakistan’s position on the issue.
We have regulated the movement of fertilisers. We also have strengthened the Punishment Act”.
“Americans recognise who are victims of terrorism — the Americans are victims but so many Pakistanis have lost their lives too”, said Mr Grossman while responding to the minister’s remarks. “So this issue is very important between the United States and Pakistan”.