ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani on Thursday termed the continuing US drone attacks in Pakistan as unacceptable.
Conveying his concern to a visiting US Congressional delegation over the continued strikes against militants and civilians in Pakistan, the premier said, “Unilateral action such as drone strikes is unacceptable and counterproductive,” urging that there was a need for deep discussion to overcome the negative atmosphere created by such strikes.
The visiting US Congressional delegation, meanwhile, declared that Republicans and Democrats as well as the US government in Washington were united in their opposition to the resolution adopted by a US Congress sub-committee on foreign affairs on the issue of Balochistan, and reaffirmed that the United States fully supports Pakistan’s security and territorial integrity.
The resolution, which last week triggered a strong protest from nearly all cross-sections of the Pakistani leadership, figured prominently in a meeting between Prime Minister Gilani and the US Congressional delegation.
The delegation, led by Chairman, House Democracy Partnership and Chairman House Rules Committee Congressman David Dreier, highly appreciated the leadership of Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani in consolidating democracy, civilian governance and rule of law in Pakistan.
During the meeting, the prime minister conveyed serious concerns about the Balochistan resolution tabled by a US Congressman. “The people of Pakistan expect the US to be mindful and respectful of Pakistan’s national interests, and in particular Pakistan’s security and territorial integrity,” the premier appraised, informing the delegation on the sensitivities associated with the Balochistan issue.
The delegation agreed with the prime minister that the trust deficit should be removed and that the US Congress, together with Pakistani parliamentarians, can play an important role in this regard.
The Congressmen expressed support for the government’s policy aimed at economic development, addressing the needs of education, health and providing employment to the people of the country. They also agreed that trade and not aid was the way forward to economic development, promotion of education and poverty alleviation enabling them in combating the root causes of extremism and terrorism.
Gilani, meanwhile, said that Pakistan desired to have excellent relations with US and it was important to follow a partnership approach based on mutual interest and mutual respect. He also said that Pakistan had made numerous sacrifices in the war against terror. “The whole nation is united and democratic government has given political ownership to the anti-terrorism campaign,” he maintained.
The premier also emphasised the need for devising a mutually acceptable strategy to achieve shared goals, as the military solution did not provide a permanent solution.
He further said it the Afghan peace process had been discussed in great detail with the Afghan president during his recent visit to Islamabad. “It was important that Afghanistan, Pakistan and US were on the same page and worked together to promote mutually national reconciliation, peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he added. He also said Pakistan has also taken steps to improve relations with India.
The US Congressional delegation included Congressman James Moran, Member House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Joe Wilson, Member House Democracy Partnership House Armed Services Committee, House Foreign Affairs Committee and House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Adrian Smith, Member Subcommittees on Trade and Social Security, House Ways and Means Committee, Congressman Kenny Merchant, Member Subcommittees on select Revenue Measures, Oversight and Social Security, House Ways and Means Committee, Father Patrick Conroy, Chaplain of the House of Representative and other senior officials.
From the Pakistani side, Minister for Commerce Makhdoom M Amin Fahim, Chairperson BISP Farzana Raja, secretary foreign affairs, secretary commerce, secretary water & power and other senior officials were also present during the meeting.
In a separate meeting between the visiting delegation and Chairman Senate Farooq H. Naek, the chairman said that Pakistan desires to maintain good relations with the US based on mutual trust and shared interests.
The chairman said that Pakistan considers its relations with the US as important, essential and strategic. Speaking about the resolution on Balochistan, Congressman Dreier clarified that there exists in America wide-ranging views on various issues, and that the said resolution by a sub-committee Chairman does not represent the view of US government and US Congress.
“I want to convey to people of Pakistan and government of Pakistan that US is committed to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan. We do not support independent Balochistan and only support-united Pakistan. We support strong, vibrant civilian government and in favour of continuity of democratic process in Pakistan.”
The congressman said that Pak-US relations have been victimised by distortion of news and misperceptions, and that both sides should be working in unison with complete collaboration to act responsibly for the sake of strong strategic and multi-dimensional ties. The delegates also appreciated Pakistan’s sacrifices in the war against terrorism and extremism for regional and world peace.