PESHAWAR, April 20: British Foreign Secretary David Miliband supported the coalition government’s policy of using peaceful means to end militancy and extremism.
“We support reconciliation both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, but it has to be done on clear bottom lines. And reconciliation, I have heard today, is reconciliation with the people who are willing to participate in normal politics,” Mr Miliband said while addressing a Press conference here on Sunday.
The British foreign secretary said that tribal areas were of significant concern for his country because of their links with terrorist incidents in Britain.
“There is no question that across the Afghan-Pakistan border there is an area that is of major interest to the United Kingdom because the origin of the significant amount of terrorism we face has links back to here.”
“So we want to work very closely with the authorities here on security issues,” he said.
“But no one believes that there is a quick fix. There is no quick fix through military, no quick fix through political means. This is a long and slow process and we support it,” he said, adding that the approach of reconciliation seemed to be correct and deserved strong support.
He said Britain wanted a long-term partnership with Pakistan to end militancy in its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
“Britain is going to be a partner for a long term. We are not here for a quick fix,” he said.
Mr Miliband said Pakistan and the United Kingdom also had very strong economic relationship.
He said that about 800,000 people of Pakistani origin had been living in Britain.
Terming his Peshawar visit very positive, he said his government was determined to support the government on economic, political and security fronts.
He held out an assurance that Britain would remain very strong partner of both the province and the country.
He said that Pakistan had been through a trauma for four or five months, but it had now shown strong signs of coming through that trauma with democracy strengthened in the country.
He said terrorism was a real security challenge here in the first instance for the people of the region, but at the same time it was not only a problem for Pakistan but for the outside world too.
He said the elements using extremist means for promoting their ideology should be marginalised.
He said his government believed in strong institutions in Pakistan so that the government was rung in a strong way.
During a meeting with tribal elders and representatives of NGOs, the British foreign secretary was informed about incidents of lawlessness in the tribal region, the government’s decision to repeal the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) and other social issues.
Abdul Hakeem Shinwari, a tribal businessman, told Dawn that they had informed Mr Miliband that the government of Pakistan and international community should take tribesmen into confidence before introducing constitutional and administrative reforms in the region.
“Tribesmen have not been taken into confidence over the past eight years which has created a lot of mess in the area,” said Mr Shinwari, adding that the government should bring amendments to the FCR in accordance with aspirations of the tribesmen.
Also on Sunday, Mr Miliband met NWFP Chief Minister Amir Haidar Khan Hoti in the Frontier House. ANP President Asfandyar Wali Khan and party’s provincial president Afrasiab Khattak attended the meeting.
The two sides discussed war on terror and law and order situation in the NWFP and Fata and agreed to take joint measures for establishing peace in the region.
Mr Asfandyar apprised the British minister of provincial government’s strategy of holding talks with Taliban militants to establish peace in the region.
The ANP leaders expressed apprehensions about the way the war on terror was being fought in the region and said that peace could only be restored and maintained in the region by holding talks with the militants, adding that the use of force was no solution to the crisis the region had been facing.
Later, Mr Miliband met relatives of victims of bomb blasts in Qisakhawani bazaar and Charsadda.
According to Dawn’s Islamabad Bureau, Mr Miliband held intensive talks on Sunday with PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N chief Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and discussed with them matters relating to the war on terror and the economic challenges being faced Pakistan.
Mr Miliband assured them that his country would continue to provide aid to Pakistan for economic development.
He also discussed with them the issue of religious extremism being faced by Britain and discussed avenues for increasing cooperation to combat terrorism.
A spokesman for the British High Commission told Dawn that Mr Milband would meet President Pervez Musharraf, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday.