AFP : Pakistani PM says no talks with militants who kill poor

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pakistani PM says no talks with militants who kill poor

August 23, 2008

ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Pakistani Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani Saturday said his government would not negotiate with militants but would tackle the poverty and unemployment at the root of the unrest which has claimed hundreds of lives.

Pakistan is experiencing a renewed wave of suicide attacks in response to its ongoing military operations against Taliban militants active in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

"We will not negotiate with those who are attacking you, who are attacking the poor people," Gilani told reporters at a hospital in the nearby town of Wah after visiting the victims of a twin suicide attack.

The Taliban suicide bombing at Pakistan's biggest weapons factory on Thursday, the deadliest ever attack on a Pakistani military site, killed at least 64 people and wounded 70 others.

"They attack the poor labourers. They want to snatch their livelihoods. We strongly condemn such attacks against poor people," Gilani said and added that such attacks gave the country a bad name.

He said the government would leave the door to negotiations open for those tribes who separate themselves from the militants and would also talk to those rebels who surrender their weapons.

"Our tribesmen are patriotic people and we will negotiate with those tribes who isolate themselves from the militants," the premier said.

He said that the government was addressing the root cause of militancy and suicide attacks, identifying poverty, unemployment and lack of basic healthcare and education facilities as the main reasons behind the unrest.

"We are working for the economic uplift and development of the tribal areas," he said.

Gilani urged all political parties and religious groups and people at large to join forces to fight the menace of terrorism and said that the militants were a tiny minority in Pakistan.

"They are a handful of elements who are creating unrest. The majority of people in Pakistan are patriotic and peace-loving. The enemies of the country are behind those miscreants," Gilani said.

Pakistani troops are battling Taliban militants in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and northwestern Swat valley.

The military said that it killed up to 35 militants in a massive operation in Swat valley on Saturday after a suicide bombing and other attacks killed six people including two policemen.