Pakistan, US share common regional objectives: President

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday said that Pakistan shared common objectives with the United States in the region and was ready to work with international community for reconciliation and peace in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The President was talking to a US delegation comprising Senator Carl Levin, Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Jeanne Shaheen and other senior officials including that of the US embassy in Islamabad during a meeting at Aiwan-e-Sadr.From Pakistan side, the meeting was attended by Defence Minister Ch. Ahmed Mukhtar, Secretary General M. Salman Faruqui, Senator Syeda Sughra Imam, Acting Foreign Secretary Dr. Alamgir Babar and Spokesperson to the President Farhatullah Babar besides other senior officials.

Matters relating to Pak-US bilateral relations, war against terror and regional situation were discussed during the meeting.The President during the meeting said that both the countries have invested substantially on building the process of strategic dialogue and “we must not allow some incidents to roll back the labour of building an enduring and multifaceted equation as it was no option for the two countries at this critical time”.The President said, “drag on our relations due to operation irritants can effectively be avoided if the terms of engagements were clearly defined and followed in their true essence by the two countries.”

The President said both the countries needed to avoid all actions that send negative signal and prove to be counter-productive in a bid to forge a collaborative and comprehensive partnership.Discussing some recent developments, the President said Pakistan was concerned about the reports of proposed slash in US assistance for the country.Any cut in assistance would not only impact Pakistan’s existing economic conditions at this critical moment but would also send a negative signal to the public about commitment of the US government towards the people of Pakistan when they are suffering heavily in economic terms due to unparalleled toll of war against terror. Emphasizing the need to avoid all such legislations and uncalled for moves, the President hoped that all such steps would be avoided.

About the fight against militants, the President said that Pakistan had offered huge sacrifices in this war.He said that the militants were created and nurtured by the international community to defeat a rival ideology.At that time the Mujahideen were likened as ‘the moral equivalents of George Washington’, the President said and added that it was the responsibility of the international community to help Pakistan in the fight against militants.  The President said that the people of Pakistan especially those of tribal areas were the worst sufferers of militancy and there was an urgent need to focus on their socio-economic development and to bring qualitative change in their lives in order to win the battle of hearts and minds.

He said good education and offering economic opportunities were the only effective tools to wean the youth away from the traps of militants on one hand and to permanently change mindsets on the other.Discussing regional situation and the convergence of mutual interests in the region, the President said Pakistan would support every effort for the stability of region.Senator Carl Levin thanked the President for meeting the delegation and appreciated Pakistan’s struggle against militants. – APP