ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Tuesday said that Pakistan and United States decided to constitute one group from each side to undertake strategic review of the existing policy and formulate a new approach to address the problem of terrorism and extremism. Addressing a joint news conference with US Special Representative Richard Holbrooke and Information Minister Sherry Rehman following meeting here, he said that Pakistani group would be led by him while Holbrooke would lead his country’s team. The two teams would sit together and share their views, he added.
He said that during the meeting it was felt that involvement of Pakistan in drafting a new strategy would give it greater ownership and promote greater understanding. He said Pakistan would share its experiences of the last ten years as it understands the terrain, culture, traditions and religious beliefs more than any one else.
However; Holbrooke invited Pakistani team to visit Washington at the earliest possible and the Foreign Minister accepted the invitation. Earlier, during the talks, Pakistan also proposed that in view of greater understanding and trust between the new democratic Government in Pakistan and President Hamid
Karzai, there should also be a three way meeting to discuss the issues involved. The Foreign Minister said that the two sides agreed during meeting on a regional approach to the problem of terrorism and extremism. The United States also shared Pakistan’s position that there was need to adopt a multi-pronged and comprehensive approach.
The Foreign Minister described it as a pleasant change in the thinking of the new US administration. Pakistani side told the United States that along with military surge in Afghanistan, which would also have implications for Pakistan as well and there should be economic and political surge as well.
About drone attacks, Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi said he told the US Special Representative that there is need to weigh advantages and disadvantages of these attacks and that Pakistan is convinced that these were counter productive.
Pakistan also emphasized that there should be red lines indicating what is acceptable and not acceptable to Pakistan and similarly what is acceptable and not acceptable to the United States. This would help improve cooperation and minimize confusion.
The US official told Pakistan that President Obama has special attachment with Pakistan and Indonesia. Replying to a question the Foreign Minister said Mumbai incident did not figure in today’s meeting with Mr. Holbrook.
To another question he said Pakistan has explained to the outside world that relief to Dr. A.Q. Khan was provided by independent judiciary and important capitals feel reassured on the issue. He said A.Q. Khan issue is a close chapter now.
Information Minister Sherry Rehman said appointment of Holbrooke as special envoy and his visit to Pakistan is a new beginning and this is acknowledgement of importance that Washington accords to Islamabad. She said the visit is also reflective of the regional approach to the issue of militancy and terrorism. The Information Minister said the new Government in Pakistan is battling extremism and militancy on all possible fronts including dialogue. She said this is fact finding visit of Mr. Holbrooke to this region and the United States acknowledges the challenges facing Pakistan.-SANA