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Why Pakistan not trying Mumbai suspects, Obama asks Sharif

Updated October 25, 2013

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President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Oct 23, 2013. — Photo by AP
President Barack Obama meets with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Oct 23, 2013. — Photo by AP

WASHINGTON: US President Barack Obama has asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif why Pakistan had not yet started the trial of suspected Mumbai attackers.

The prime minister revealed this while talking to the media before leaving Washington after a four-day visit to the United States.

On Wednesday, Mr Sharif had a two-hour long meeting with Mr Obama, which covered all issues of mutual concern.

“He (Obama) asked, why the trial of the (Mumbai) terrorist attack in India has not started yet,” Mr Sharif said.

During the meeting, the US president also raised the issue of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, cross-border terrorism and Dr Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani doctor who helped the CIA track down Osama bin Laden and has been in prison since then.

“He (Obama) has raised the issue of (Dr Shakil) Afridi. He spoke about cross-border movement. He also talked about Jamaat-ud-Dawa,” the prime minister said, without giving details.

“Pakistan has to put its house in order — we have to do that — we will fulfill the responsibility entrusted to us by the people of Pakistan,” said Mr Sharif while responding to US concern on this issue.

“We should have managed our house better — now the nation is suffering — we have to pull Pakistan out of the difficult phase — I feel with a sound policy, support of the media, civil society and the nation, we will be able to steer Pakistan out of troubles.”

Mr Sharif said he informed Mr Obama that his government was holding a dialogue with the Taliban, a decision backed by all political parties in the country.

“Pakistan has taken a conscious decision,” he said, adding that he had asked the United States to back Pakistan on this approach.

Mr Sharif told reporters that Pakistan’s relationship with India was discussed at length and they also reviewed the Kashmir dispute. But he did not say which aspect of the issue he raised and how Mr Obama responded.

The prime minister said he made a strong case for greater Pakistani trade access to the United States in his meeting with Mr Obama.

“I fulfilled my duty to put on table issues of concern to Pakistan … talked about all those issues that pertain to Pakistan’s sovereignty and respect,” he said.

“Economic and energy cooperation, education, extremism issue, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan-India relations and the Kashmir dispute, the drone issue and the matter of jailed Pakistani scientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui” were the issues he discussed with Mr Obama, the prime minister said.

“We are trying to enforce law — launched a well thought-out operation in Karachi because establishment of peace in Karachi will benefit the entire country — it will help stimulate economic growth by bringing investment — we have to address (problems) — we will not let Pakistan remain like this,” he said.

“We will fulfil our obligation — it is doable — we can make Pakistan much better than what it is today so that coming generations may live a better life — we want to make Pakistan a model in South Asia.”

Pakistan, he said, must address problems both through tough decisions and statesmanship.

He cited some tough decisions the government had to take in grappling with the energy crisis like payment of circular debt to the tune of Rs500 billion and increase in tariff.

After his meeting with Prime Minister Sharif, President Obama told reporters that the Pakistani leader was taking a “wise path” in exploring how decades of tension between India and Pakistan could be reduced.

The prime minister pointed out how the two countries had wasted billions of dollars on arms race, which could be much more profitably invested in education, social welfare programs on both sides of the border, Mr Obama said. In a joint statement issued after the meeting, President Obama welcomed recent engagements between Mr Sharif and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and expressed hope that this would mark the beginning of a sustained dialogue process between the two neighbours, aimed at building lasting peace in South Asia and resolving all outstanding disputes.

The US president said that the Pakistani prime minister and he had also discussed India-Pakistan relations after the meeting of the Sharif-Singh meeting in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.