The News : US conditions on aid not good for ties: FO

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

US conditions on aid not good for ties: FO

By Mariana Baabar | December 20, 2007

ISLAMABAD: Alarm bells rang in Islamabad over The News story that the US House of Representatives had passed a bill putting tough conditions on providing military aid to Pakistan. The Foreign Office spokesman said at a briefing here on Wednesday that Pakistan was already seized of the matter.

“Pak-US relations are very important and attaching conditions to this assistance will not serve our relations. These relations serve the interest of peace and security and progress in the region. We will continue to continue to engage with Congress. This is not the end of the matter but only the beginning. The bill has to go through several steps,” he said.

In his weekly press briefing here on Wednesday, the spokesman said President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai would be visiting Islamabad on 26-27 December and the Pakistani leadership was expected to take up with him all bilateral issues, including cooperation in the struggle against extremism and terrorism.

To a query whether President Pervez Musharraf will ask him “to do more” since the government has always maintained that the problems (of extremism and terrorism) lie inside Afghanistan and the answer is also inside Afghanistan, the spokesman said, “Do more is not our language. All bilateral issues, including cooperation in the struggle against extremism and terrorism, would be discussed but this discussion is couched in a different language.

The spokesman said this was essentially a goodwill visit and expression of solidarity with Pakistan. “He will be the second head of state to visit Pakistan since the election of President Pervez Musharraf for his second term,” he added.

During his visit, President Karzai will meet the president and the prime minister. The meetings are expected to focus on bilateral relations, reconstruction in Afghanistan as well as regional and international situation. The president and the prime minister will also hold a banquet and a luncheon respectively for the visiting dignitary.

To a query if the issue of Pakistan’s elections will be discussed with Karzai and if help will be sought to ensure that these are free elections, the spokesman replied that though there are a number of issues but assistance in elections is not a part of the agenda.

“There are no expectations or need (for Afghan help) in this regard,” he added.

To several queries, the spokesman said he was not aware if the British high commissioner had visited the Foreign Office with regard to the escape of Rashid Rauf.

“The High Commission, however, is in touch with the Ministry of Interior. There is no extradition treaty between Pakistan and the UK but the British government’s interest in Rashid Rauf is understandable. The initial inquiry report is due today. The British are in touch with the Ministry of Interior which has ordered this inquiry,” he said.

To another query whether Rashid Rauf had escaped to Afghanistan, the spokesman again replied, “The report on Rashid Rauf is due today. We don’t know where he is now. I cannot say what will we do next. Interior is the focal ministry in this regard.”

To a query whether any embassy in Pakistan or a foreign capital had expressed concern at the alleged campaigning for a single political party by the president, the spokesman replied, “The president has said that he won’t campaign for any party. Nobody has expressed any such concerns you are mentioning.”

Asked to comment on the views of the Indian National Security Adviser that Pakistan was involved in terrorist activities inside India, the spokesman shrugged aside these allegations saying, “Our position on so-called terror groups allegedly operating from Pakistan is very clear. Pakistan isn’t involved in any terrorist activity inside India and we do not allow our territory to be used for this purpose. We have reiterated this position frequently.”

The government says requests have come from Commonwealth for sending observers for elections but the government has still not taken a decision.

When reminded that the president said that everyone was welcome, the spokesman replied, “Yes, everyone is welcome but everyone needs to apply and get approved.”

“The Commonwealth decision at Kampala came as a disappointment to us as it was taken in haste without considering the ground situation in Pakistan or the measures that had already been taken by the government to return the country to full democracy and civilian rule. Our proposal of sending a delegation before taking a decision was also ignored. One of the CMAG members, Sri Lanka, publicly disassociated itself from the organisationís decision,” he added.