Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pakistan Wants to Expand Anti-Taliban Effort

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has called for more international aid to combat extremists, saying that the Taliban could otherwise move into India and the Gulf.

The warning from Mr Qureshi, in an interview published in the Financial Times on Monday, comes two days before the first summit of the European Union and Pakistan leaders in Brussels, at which aid for Pakistan would likely top the agenda.

He called for $2.5 billion alone in emergency relief and reconstruction aid for the northwest, where troops have been locked in heavy combat with Taliban militants since late April.

Mr Qureshi’s comments come as Pakistan expands its anti-Taliban offensive in the northwest to the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

‘They (militants) have a global agenda, they have a regional agenda, and they are not confined to Pakistan. They could go into the Gulf, they could go into India, they can go anywhere,’ Mr Qureshi said.

‘There is a collective interest and there has to be a collective realisation that this is not Pakistan’s problem. It’s a larger problem.’ The foreign minister said the international community needed to help Pakistan improve its counter-terrorism capacity and stabilise its flagging economy.

‘When we do it with our own resources, obviously other areas will suffer because we’ll have to divert resources. This cannot be ignored,’ Mr Qureshi said.

The US House of Representatives voted last week to triple US aid to $1.5 billion annually through the 2013 fiscal year. The House and the Senate now need to reconcile their aid bills, which lawmakers say could take months.

Pakistan has earmarked Rs50 billion ($617 million) for aid to the northwest in its budget for fiscal 2009-2010 starting from July 1, unveiled at the weekend.

Mr Qureshi warned that if more money needed to be diverted from state coffers to help the two million people displaced by the fighting in the northwest, the country’s economy -- and its efforts to fight the Taliban -- would suffer.

‘It will slow down our recovery. It will compromise our ability to fight militancy, obviously poverty levels will go up, obviously it will help the militants,’ he said.


From here.

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