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Downplays Panetta’s remarks; says govt is not abetting terrorists
 
 
Sunday, June 10, 2012
From Print Edition
 
 

 

BEIJING: President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday expressed his confidence in the country’s ties with the United States despite recent complaints from Washington, and said it would take time to restore normalcy to the bilateral relationship.

 

In an exclusive interview with the China Daily, the president said, “I think the US is an important country in the world and so is Pakistan. We have mutual interests. Slowly but surely we will get back to normal relations.”

 

The remarks come in the wake of US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s cold remarks in Kabul to the effect that Washington was “reaching the limits of its patience” with Pakistan on the issue of militant safe havens on the Pakistani side of the border.

 

On Wednesday Panetta said that the US would continue to battle militants in Pakistan’s tribal regions despite complaints from Islamabad that drone strikes violated the country’s sovereignty and created a sense of anti-Americanism. Analysts say Panetta’s statement shows the level of mistrust between the two allies in their war on terror.

 

In response to a question regarding his opinion of Panetta’s remarks, President Zardari said, “I think sometimes politicians speak for political reasons. It is an election year in the US. Most of the comments coming from the US are based on their internal political condition.”

 

“Nobody understands the effects of the war on Pakistan. We have lost 40,000 people and economic growth from terrorist attacks and activities,” maintained the president. “We are victims of terror. It seems like Pakistan is abetting terrorists, but it is the wrong perception.”

 

President Zardari attended the annual leaders’ summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation in Beijing, of which Pakistan is an observer — along with India, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia. The bloc reached several landmark agreements on political, economic and security co-operation during the SCO Beijing summit, which also set the blueprint for the bloc’s future.

 

“The SCO is going to be the region’s economic engine in the future,” President Zardari said, adding that he had “high expectations” of the organisation. “The SCO is very young, and obviously it is taking its own time to grow. But it shows the world that this is the path we’re taking. Today, the economic and financial stability of nations is the way forward. In this way, the region can benefit from each others’ strengths and come to the aid of each others’ weaknesses,” he said.

 

Pakistan has enjoyed close co-operation with the SCO and China in recent years in the fields of security and economic co-operation. “I expect all of us to come to a common understanding over political views and the challenges that face our nations,” said the president.