Pakistan PM calls for political solution to terror fight


ISLAMABAD: March 26, 2008. (AFP) Pakistan PM told US President George W. Bush that a broader approach to the "war on terror" is necessary, including political solutions and development programmes, a statement said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a senior official from the party of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, made the call for a rethink in policy when Bush telephoned him on Tuesday to congratulate him on taking office. His comments came after former premier Nawaz Sharif told two US envoys on Tuesday that the new government would review President Pervez Musharraf`s "one-man" anti-terror strategy and focus on Pakistan`s needs. Gilani told Bush "that Pakistan would continue to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations since it is in Pakistan`s own national interest," said a statement issued late Tuesday by his office. "However, he said that a comprehensive approach is required in this regard, specially combining a political approach with development programmes," it added. Gilani said that Pakistan was "committed to maintaining long-term close ties with the USA." The White House said earlier that Bush told Gilani he was ready to work with him and that they both stressed the need to fight Islamist extremism. Gilani was due to meet with visiting Deputy US Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher later Wednesday, a day after they met Musharraf and Sharif, his office said. Analysts said the US visit was designed to woo the new government and smooth relations between it and Musharraf, amid fears that instability in the nuclear-armed nation will hurt efforts to tackle Islamic militancy. Pakistan People`s Party and Sharif`s grouping trounced Musharraf`s allies in elections in February, a seismic shift in the country`s politics nearly nine years after Musharraf seized power in a coup. Pakistan has been a bulwark in the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. More than 600 people have died in militant-related violence this year in Pakistan. Previous attempts at peace deals with militants in the tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, which the US says is a safe haven for Al-Qaeda, have collapsed with further bloodshed and caused alarm in Washington. The US has pledged 750 million dollars over the next five years for development in the lawless and impoverished tribal regions. Sharif said he told Negroponte that a parliamentary committee would look at Musharraf`s anti-terror policies, adding that the new government wanted to tackle extremism but did not want the country to become a "murder-house." Separately, Britain`s Daily Telegraph newspaper quoted a senior former ally of Musharraf as saying that the US and British "failure" in Afghanistan had sparked the recent wave of violence in Pakistan. "The West has failed in Afghanistan and so has shifted the blame to Pakistan," it quoted Lieutenant General Ali Muhammad Jan Aurakzai as saying. Aurakzai resigned in January as governor of restive North West Frontier Province. Meanwhile Bush used his authority to exempt Pakistan from a law that restricts funding countries where the legitimate head of state was deposed by a military coup, as in Pakistan, the White House said Tuesday.

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