Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Pakistan to UK: We are Offended!

ISLAMABAD: The British High Commissioner to Pakistan on Monday sought to play down Prime Minister David Cameron’s controversial remarks about Pakistan and called for progress in the relationship instead of allowing bilateral ties to get bogged down in bitterness. However, hidden in the diplomatic language was the clear message that London was in no mood to apologise.

High Commissioner Adam Thomson was summoned to the Foreign Office amidst a diplomatic spat over Mr Cameron’s allegation Pakistan was promoting terror in the region.

The envoy was asked by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi to explain the comments that have created a furore in the country.

The high commissioner was summoned to receive the protest on the eve of President Zardari’s five-day visit to the United Kingdom.

Mr Thomson was told that the remarks did not augur well for the relations between the two countries.

Foreign Minister Qureshi informed him that the unwarranted remarks had surprised and saddened Pakistan.

“The foreign minister emphasised that terrorism was a global issue and had to be dealt with by all countries in a spirit of cooperation, rather than putting the entire onus on any one country,” a statement issued by Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit said.

Pakistan was itself a victim of terrorism and its efforts against violent extremism could not be negated, the foreign minister was further quoted as having said.

Mr Thomson, explaining the comments, said they were made in response to a question and did not form part of the PM’s speech.

The high commissioner called for focussing on growing ties and strategic partnership instead of playing up controversies.

In London, a spokesperson for Prime Minister Cameron said he (the PM) stood by his comments made in India last week.

She further noted that the prime minister, in his meeting with President Zardari at Chequers, would discuss possible actions by Islamabad about what Mr Cameron had described as Pakistan’s tolerance of terrorism. Mr Cameron had said: “Pakistan cannot be allowed to look both ways.”

The spokesperson clearly indicated that 10 Downing Street was in no mood to apologise over the remarks.

The spokesperson also negated the impression that Mr Zardari was coming on a state visit to the UK – something the president’s camp had been suggesting as the presidency tried to deflect mounting pressure for calling off the trip.

In Islamabad, the Foreign Office in a rather belated announcement about Mr Zardari’s UK visit said: “It will afford a useful opportunity to exchange views on regional and international developments.”

Earlier, the ISI, had cancelled the visit of its delegation to Britain, which was to be led by the agency’s chief Lt-Gen Shuja Pasha.

Asked about Mr Cameron’s standing by his comments, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira told BBC television: “I think this is very unfortunate”, but insisted it would not threaten the visit. “No, (the) president is not following this policy; he has a policy of interaction with the world,” he said.

“We want to expand our relationship... but such remarks (are) a real problem for the government of Pakistan and the society of Pakistan.”

Mr Kaira added that he hoped the British government would “change their perspective” after Mr Zardari’s meeting with Mr Cameron “because we will give them the real facts”.

Source:  Pakistan Dawn

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