Joint action by all parties urged to meet challenge
KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari assured leaders of the business community on Friday that the country was in safe hands and the government was capable of handling pressures and challenges.
At a meeting with the president, the business leaders had expressed concern over the increasing US pressure on the government on a number of issues, including the Haqqani network.
According to sources, Mr Zardari said such pressures in relations with the international community could only be overcome through national unity and expressed the hope that all political parties would join hands to scuttle these.
He recalled the sacrifices rendered by the nation in the US-led war on terror and said that without Pakistan its objectives could not be achieved. The international community was not oblivious of this fact, he added.
According to the sources, the president reiterated Pakistanâ€™s commitment to peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region and said the people, the armed forces and the government of Pakistan were on the same page on the issue.
Also on Friday, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said the United States was an important country, but Pakistan wanted to maintain relations with it on the basis of mutual respect as a sovereign country.
Talking to reporters after inaugurating new berths at the Karachi Port, the prime minister said the US should refrain from sending wrong messages such as taking operational steps against the Haqqani network which were not acceptable to the people of Pakistan. â€œThe sovereignty of the country cannot be compromised and it will be protected at all cost. The US should avoid threatening 180 million people of Pakistan because this will further deteriorate our mutual relations.â€
Mr Gilani said the US should realise that â€œwe need political space particularly when Pakistan is not part of issue but part of solutionâ€. Both countries, he said, needed each other and, therefore, should try to avoid sending threatening messages.
Responding to a question, the prime minister said Pakistan would support any effort for stability and peace in Afghanistan based on aspirations of the Afghan people.
He said Pakistan always sought trade, and not aid, to achieve economic stability, but there had been unnecessary pressure on Pakistan to â€œdo more in the war on terrorismâ€.
The prime minister said Pakistan was not isolated in the world and had peaceful relations with its neighbours and countries in the region.
Later, talking to a delegation of business leaders at the Governorâ€™s House, Prime Minister Gilani said he would soon convene a meeting of leaders of all political parties to apprise them of the security situation in the country and changing environment in the region.
â€œThe political and economic stability of the country is interlinked,â€ he said.
Mr Gilani said that Pakistan had good relations with most countries, but would now concentrate on improving ties with countries in its vicinity. He said the countryâ€™s defence was strong and the nation would not allow anyone to fiddle with its frontiers.
Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, who earlier in the day met US President Barack Obama in New York, said the United States risked losing an ally if it continued to publicly criticise Pakistanâ€™s performance in the war against militancy.
They would lose an ally, Ms Khar told Geo TV in response to a question about US allegations against Pakistan army and ISI and threats of direct action. â€œYou cannot afford to alienate Pakistan; you cannot afford to alienate the Pakistani people. If you are choosing to do so and if they are choosing to do so, it will be at their (the United Statesâ€™) own cost,â€ she added.
â€œAt the operational level it will be appropriate to say that there are serious difficulties (between the two countries).â€
In a separate interview to Indiaâ€™s NDTV, Ms Khar added: â€œPointing fingers at each other will not help. Finding scapegoats will not help â€¦ We want to be a mature, responsible country that is fighting terrorism with a lot of maturity.â€