ISLAMABAD, Sept 13: US Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte on Thursday lauded Pakistan’s role in the fight against extremism and terrorism in the region.The American official, who arrived her on Wednesday for the second round of strategic talks, had a string of meetings with Pakistani leaders, including President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz, minister for interior and some politicians.
During the meeting with President Musharraf, Mr Negroponte said that relations with Pakistan and its people were very important for the US because Pakistan had long been a strong ally and was an important and pivotal nation in the world. He supported the measures taken by the Pakistan government in tribal areas.
He said the United States recognised the sacrifices of the people of Pakistan in the war against terror. “We stand with all of those Pakistanis who have been wounded or who have lost loved ones and we hold a special place of honour for those who sacrificed their lives in protecting not only Pakistanis but also the entire world from acts of terrorism.”
He said the second round of US-Pakistan strategic dialogue was very useful, adding that discussions between the two countries showed the commitments of both the nations to a wide-ranging substantive and long-term bilateral relationship.
President Musharraf said that Pakistan’s commitment to address the challenges of extremism and terrorism was beyond any doubt and it would continue to pursue a comprehensive strategy to tackle the menace.
He said Pakistan was giving due importance to a broad-based, long-term and sustainable relationship with the United States, adding that any attempt to constrain the relationship, such as negative provisions of the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations must be avoided.
President Musharraf elaborated the strategy being followed in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and urged the US to expedite work on the reconstruction opportunity zones. He also sought its support for the Fata development plan and FC capacity building.
He stressed the need for better understanding in the United States and its media of Pakistan’s efforts to curb terrorism.
The president said that Pakistan attached great importance to peace and stability in Afghanistan. The outcome of the recent Afghanistan-Pakistan peace jirga was positive and the follow-up steps, including the establishment of a smaller jirga and commencement of its work, are being worked out.
About the Pakistan-India composite dialogue, Gen Musharraf said both the countries should move forward and resolve the outstanding issues, particularly Kashmir.
The prime minister in his meeting with the US deputy secretary said that Pakistan accorded high priority to its strategic relationship with the US and was keen to further expand its relations in political, diplomatic, economic, defence and security sectors.Mr Aziz said that Pakistan would continue to strengthen the democratic process in the country and assured that the coming elections would be free, fair and transparent and foreign observers would be welcome to monitor them.
He said all political parties would be free to contest the polls and the ballot box would decide the future disposition.
The prime minister said Pakistan was fully committed to fighting extremism and terrorism, but underlined the need for addressing the root cause of terrorism which stemmed from deprivation and injustice.
He said Pakistan wanted Afghanistan to grow and prosper because a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan was in the interest of Pakistan and the region. The prime minister expressed concern over the increase in poppy cultivation in Afghanistan and said that drug money was being used for terrorist activities. He said the international community should do more to support Afghanistan and help eradicate poppy cultivation through crop substitution and employment generation.