- Senator McCain meets Islamabad troika, seeks removal of curbs on diplomats
- Says Washington won’t abandon Islamabad again
- President Zardari wants sustainable, broader relationship with US
Senator John McCain on Saturday led a US delegation to hold a series of meetings with Pakistan’s civil and military leadership.
The US side demanded withdrawal of NoC requirement for the movement of US diplomats, while Pakistanis, given their chequered history with the Americans, demanded clear terms of engagement on war against terror and broadening of the bilateral relationship.
The former presidential candidate and Republican Senator from Arizona, Jhon McCain accompanied by US Ambassador in Islamabad Cameron P Munter, Christine Brose, Vance Serchuk and Maggie Goodlander called on President Asif Ali Zardari, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to discuss matters concerning Pak-US relations, war against terror and the regional situation.
Pakistan wants to have an enduring partnership with the United States and the relationship should go beyond cooperation on terrorism, President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani said in their separate meetings with the US team on Saturday afternoon.
Briefing the media, Spokesman for President Farhatullah Babar said that President Zardari during the meeting reiterated his call for both the countries to work more closely in institutionalising the mutual cooperation and cementing bilateral relations based on mutual interest and mutual respect. The president reiterated call for specifying clear and unambiguous terms of engagements in the war against militants in order to avoid adverse impacts on bilateral relations owing to difference of opinion and stances on various issues. "We need to build a framework for an enduring strategic partnership," he added.
The president said that a long-term, sustainable and multidimensional relationship with the US that is marked by mutual understanding of each other's interests, mutual trust and respect was not only in the interest of the two countries but would help in cringing stability to the region. The war against terror was a long drawn fight and needs enduring partnership.
President Zardari said that it was important that root causes of militancy and reasons behind people’s drift towards extremism are addressed. He said that a multi-pronged strategy encompassing socio-economic, political and educational measures, besides judicious use of power, could meet the challenge of militancy and defeat the militant mindset.
He said that Pakistan had been the worst victim of this scourge and had suffered losses that exceeded in quantum to that of any other nation. He said, "With direct and indirect economic losses equalling to $68 billion and 35,000 martyrs behind us, we are determined to pursue this war till its logical conclusion. Our commitment remains aboveboard and without even slightest shadow of doubt," he emphasised. "Besides economic losses, the impacts of the war on our social fabric are equally devastating." He said that the government, despite tremendous losses and toll, was committed to the uplift of the people, especially of those who have been worst hit by the menace of militancy.
"Fata remains our top most priority," the president emphasised. He said that the government was committed to bringing about qualitative change in the lives of the people of tribal areas by bringing socio-economic development in the tribal areas. "Through good education and providing the youth better economic opportunities we can effectively save them from falling into the traps of militants," the president said.
The president said that he had been continuously pleading before the international community the case for socio-economic development of the people of the hard-hit areas especially that of tribal areas. The President also raised the issue of recent moves in the Congress to reduce assistance under Kerry-Lugar-Berman. The issue of delays in flow of assistance, ROZ legislation and Enterprise Fund was also discussed during the meeting.
Discussing regional situation, the president reiterated Pakistan's support for efforts to contribute towards lasting peace in Afghanistan and helping in the development of the country.
Senator McCain thanked the president for meeting the delegation and appreciated Pakistan's countless sacrifices and struggle against the militants.
Prime Minister Gilani told the US team he would welcome the visit by the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. "We look forward to a deeper level of engagement with the US in all areas of our bilateral relations including energy, social sector and economic cooperation." He also appreciated Senator John McCain's continued support to Pakistan in the US Congress. He also a
Senator McCain, who is a Ranking Member of US Senate Armed Services Committee, acknowledged that relations between US and Pakistan had seen difficult times in the past. The US considers Pakistan as an important country. It is not in the US national interest to abandon Pakistan once again, he added. He assured the Prime Minister of the United States' continued support to the people of Pakistan in their endeavour to secure a stable and prosperous future.
The US Ambassador in Pakistan Cameron Munter, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, Senator Syeda Sughra Imam and other senior officials were also present in the meeting.
Later, the US Senator held a meeting with Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani but the details of the meeting were not available.