Stop passing the buck on terror, Pakistan tells UK

You must be more sensitive to our difficulties in fighting Islamic extremism, says Foreign Minister

The British Government should stop "passing the buck" by repeatedly blaming Pakistan for home-grown terror plots targeted at the UK, the country's Foreign Minister has warned.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Pakistan could offer the West crucial help in ending the war in Afghanistan but stressed that, to achieve a lasting settlement in the region, Britain in particular, had to demonstrate "more sensitivity" to the political difficulties Pakistan faces in maintaining domestic support for its fight against Islamist extremism.

In an interview in London to The Independent, Mr Qureshi claimed recent military victories against the Taliban in the Swat Valley were a sign Pakistan was managing to "turn the tide" against the insurgency.

But in a sign of the frustration felt in Islamabad at being lectured to by Britain on the perceived failure to root out extremism, he delivered the blunt message: "We need to change the language."

The return of civilian government after years of military rule, and the commitment of President Asif Ali Zardari to ending militancy, had brought strong gains in the struggle to defeat jihadist groups, he said. For the first time, there was a "political ownership" of the war on extremism.

"We need to recognise the change that has come about in Pakistan," he said. "The problems we have are not solely of our creation. The rest of the world helped to create this menace; now we are saying, 'Help us to eradicate this menace, this evil'. If we are allies and friends we have got to work together. We need each other's co-operation but I do think we have to be more sensitive."

Such sentiments have emerged in briefings by unnamed officials before, but it is unusual for a high-ranking member of the Pakistani government to voice them so directly. Gordon Brown has claimed three-quarters of terror plots investigated by British intelligence originate in Pakistan

While the Foreign Secretary David Miliband recently softened the tone, there is still intense concern about "safe havens" in Pakistan's tribal belt which are largely off-limits to either the rule of Pakistani law or the reach of its army. The Afghan Taliban rely on such sanctuaries to regroup in their war against Nato, while al-Qa'ida uses them as bases for training camps.

The conviction in London this month of three al-Qa'ida "liquid bomb plotters" has revived alarm about the role of Pakistani training camps in grooming jihadists. But officials in Islamabad believe the criticism deflects attention from Britain's failure to shoulder its share of the reponsibility.

"It is easy to pass the buck", Mr Qureshi said, "but [the liquid bomb plotters] were British citizens. They went to school here, they are part of the British system, they live here. If they do something extraordinary is it fair that Pakistan should be blamed?" He acknowledged that Pakistan's military was not yet ready to deliver on US demands for a massive ground assault on South Waziristan, home to several pro-Taliban tribes and jihadist groups. But such an operation was "in the pipeline", he said.

Fears for nuclear-armed Pakistan's internal stability have been intense following a recent spate of high-profile suicide bombings, a push by militants into areas fewer than 100 miles from the capital, and an economic crisis which this week saw 20 people die in stampedes for food. But Mr Qureshi insisted the civilian government had built a new political consensus around tackling extremism.

His words amplified the message contained in a speech by President Zardari yesterday. Addressing the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London, he reaffirmed his determination not to allow Pakistan to be used as a launch pad for attacks by Islamist terrorists, and called for more counter-terrorism aid from the West. Pakistan wants the US to arm it with unmanned drones and helicopters. "Let me assure you we have not come this far, at this price, to fail," he said.

Despite its understandable preoccupation with the future of neighbouring Afghanistan and the fear of losing influence there to India, Mr Qureshi insisted Islamabad had "taken no sides" in the Afghan presidential election. He said Pakistan wanted only "a stable and peaceful Afghanistan" and a "friendly government" in Kabul.

But, perhaps with an eye on Pakistan's future interests, he stressed the importance of Pakistan's historic and cultural ties as the US moves towards engaging with Taliban fighters who can be reconciled into the Western-backed political mainstream. The Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, is widely believed to maintain close links to the Afghan Taliban, whose growth it fostered during the Soviet occupation, as a counter-balance to India's power in the region.

Mr Qureshi appeared to suggest cross-border links could be harnessed to deliver peace, saying: "Pakistan is willing to play the role of facilitator with our Nato allies. We can discuss the means for engagement. We have our contacts there, we are natural players. We understand the culture and the religion."

Islamabad is also keen to restore dialogue with India, suspended after the Mumbai attacks, a move that would allow Pakistan to focus on combating internal threats. Mr Qureshi will meet his Indian counterpart on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly next week but said he expected little movement from Delhi. "They are under tremendous internal political pressure," he added.

Despite the West's nuclear stand-off with Tehran, there is also an important role for Iran in the search for reconciliation in Afghanistan, he stressed.

Suicide bomber kills 33 in market attack

Reuters

A suicide car bomber killed 33 people and wounded at least 80 in north-west Pakistan yesterday. The explosion brought down shops where people were stocking up before a holiday.

The bomb went off on a main road near the city of Kohat, a garrison town 100 miles from the capital, Islamabad, and close to the lawless ethnic Pashtun tribal belt on the Afghan border.

"A restaurant and many shops have collapsed," said Ibn-e-Ali, a former judge. "It is chaos here."

Police said the bomb contained 150kg of explosives. The Lahskar-e-Jhangvi al Almi militant group claimed responsibility.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
i100(More than you think)
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Recruitment Genius: Development Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Development Scientist is required to join a ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected