KARACHI: President Asif Zardari promised to work with the United States to “eradicate” the militant Haqqani network. This pledge was made during a meeting with visiting American congressmen, according to one of the lawmakers.
But the head of the Homeland Security delegation, Michael McCaul, downplayed the significance of the remarks, saying it was unclear whether President Zardari had the power to make good on his pledge, given the influence of the military in Pakistan.
According to McCaul, Zardari also appeared to brush off threats that US aid spending to Pakistan could be significantly cut if Islamabad did not do more to squeeze insurgents like the Haqqanis, who are based in northwest Pakistan but attack US and Afghan troops in Afghanistan.
“I think he thinks it’s a given that we are going to continue the aid, but I tried to tell him that it’s in jeopardy,” McCaul, a Republican congressman from Texas, said of Zardari. “He said, ‘I appreciate your assistance, but it’s trade more than aid that I need.”’
McCaul and the visiting lawmakers met Zardari in Karachi on Tuesday, and revealed details of his conversation later the same day. “The president, on the record, said ‘I am going to work with you to eradicate them,”’ McCaul said. He further quoted Zardari as saying: “I know these people very well, they are snakes and I’m going to go after all of them.”
McCaul said he welcomed the president’s statement, but “the real question is how much does this president control the military” and the country’s spy service. Zardari heads a democratically elected civilian government, but the military, which has ruled Pakistan for much of its existence, does not follow his orders when it comes to Afghan policy and other defence issues.
McCaul said the American delegation asked to meet the Pakistani army and spy chiefs, but this was not possible. President Asif Ali Zardari has urged the need for end to uncalled for public criticism of Pakistan and respect of its national interests so as to enable it work for shared goals with the United States.
The delegation of US Congressmen was led by Michael McCaul (r). Other members of the delegation included Jeffrey Duncan (R), Henry Cuellar (D), Gene Green (D), Michael Fitzpatrick (R) and Nick Palarino, Charles Snyder and Anne Bennet.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Secretary to President Malik Asif and Additional Secretary Foreign Affairs Dr Asad M Khan assisted the president during the meeting. The two sides discussed Pak-US bilateral relations, recent developments, strategic dialogue, Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs), war against terror, situation in Afghanistan and overall regional situation.
The president called for mutual understanding of each other’s point of view and need for greater interaction at all levels to avoid any misunderstanding and negative impressions that would potentially endanger close working relationship between the two country at this critical hour.
President Zardari emphasized upon the need for both sides to exercise restraint and avoid uncalled for public criticism as it undermines efforts to stabilize the equation and working closely for shared goals.
He said the democratic dispensation of Pakistan believed in trade rather than aid as a solution to the weak and stressed economy. He also called for expediting ROZs legislation, terming it crucial for creating economic opportunities particularly for the people of militancy-hit areas.
About war against militancy and its impact on Pakistan’s economy, the president said that combined affects of war against militancy and the recent natural calamities have adversely impacted the economy thus restricting government efforts to provide relief to the people. He said under the prevailing situation, international assistance in various projects was critical.
Discussing regional situation, the president reiterated Pakistan’s principled stance of its abiding interest in the stability of Afghanistan. He said Pakistan has always called for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution. He vowed that Pakistan would continue to support all efforts, directed towards permanent peace, stability and development of Afghanistan. He also mentioned the recently held 6th trilateral summit and Pakistan’s role to assist in efforts for restoration of stability and peace in Afghanistan.
Michael McCaul said that US will continue to attach great importance to bilateral relations and added that US-Pak relations should be encouraged at all levels. He expressed strong commitment of US to continue to support the government of Pakistan in its efforts to promote peace and stability in the region.
The US Congressmen appreciated Pakistan’s efforts to normalize relations with its neighbours and its decision to extend MFN status to India.
Meanwhile a Chinese delegation, led by Member of Central Committee of Communist Party of China (CPC), Lu Hao called on President Asif Ali Zardari at Bilawal House and discussed Pak-China bilateral relations and also ties between PPP and CPC.
The discussion involved wide ranging matters including mutual cooperation in economic and finance sectors besides the regional situation.
Lu Hao was accompanied by JIA Tingquan Deputy Secretary General CPC Committee of Gansu Province, WANG Yongqian Director General Foreign Affairs, JI Ping, Wang Huanxiang, Du Dingding and Zhao Xu.
Senator Jahangir Badar, Senator Mian Raza Rabbani, Pir Mazhar Ul Haq, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Taj Haider, Malik Asif Hayat and Dr. Asad Majid Khan were also present in the meeting from Pakistan side.
President Zardari appreciated China’s support for Pakistans’ sovereignty and territorial integrity and underscored the importance of time-tested strategic partnership between the two countries. He said it was encouraging to note that the traditional Pak-China friendship was being translated into economic cooperation for mutual benefit of the two countries.
The president said Pakistan attaches great importance to enhancing economic and trade links with China. He said that numerous areas such as energy, mining, infrastructure, information technology, telecom, agriculture, irrigation, railway, communication, finance and banking provided excellent opportunities for the peoples of two countries to take advantage and further promote mutual collaboration.
The president called for the need of currency swap agreement between the two countries as it would provide impetus to the existing level of mutual trade by facilitating business community. He also mentioned recently signed currency swap agreement with Turkey.
The president said that Chinese investors, businessmen were most welcome to undertake business ventures in Pakistan and take benefit of business-friendly policies and incentives offered by Pakistan government.
Seeking more investments by Chinese companies in Pakistan, the president stressed upon the need for making efforts to realize full potential of bilateral trade. He said China was like a second home to him and he was keen to learn from Chinese experience of development and progress.
The president thanked Chinese government for inviting new generation of Pakistan to visit China and witness the unprecedented progress made by China. Hao congratulated the president on Pakistan’s’ election to the United Nations Security Councils’ non-permanent seat and said that it demonstrated recognition by world community the constructive role played by Pakistan in promotion of international peace.
The president thanked the Chinese government for supporting Pakistan for the UN Security Councils’ non-permanent seat.
Discussing recent developments and war against militants, Hao appreciated Pakistan’s countless sacrifices in making this world a safer place to live. He said China greatly values scarifies made by Pakistani people in the war against terror.
Hao thanked the president for meeting and assured continued support of their Chinese brothers to the people of Pakistan. He also invited President Zardari to visit Gansu province, which the president agreed to consider. Hao was of the opinion that both political parties should play their role in promoting harmony.