Pakistan Wants More Than Policy Review from Obama, U.S

By Hiel, Betsy | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 31, 2009 | Go to article overview

Pakistan Wants More Than Policy Review from Obama, U.S


Hiel, Betsy, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A new American strategy for Pakistan and Afghanistan is welcome but has Pakistanis feeling "a little humiliated and let down," according to Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani.

Gillani sat with the Tribune-Review for an exclusive interview at his home in Islamabad on Monday.

His comments were his first statement to Western media about the policy changes announced Friday by President Obama.

Gillani, 56, said he appreciates the policy review but wants to see how its recommendations translate into action in Pakistan. He objected to its close linking of two countries that he described as vastly different in crucial respects.

Obama said Friday that Afghanistan's future is tied to neighboring Pakistan.

"In the nearly eight years since 9/11, al-Qaida and its extremist allies have moved across the border to the remote areas of the Pakistani frontier," the president said.

"... They have used this mountainous terrain as a safe haven to hide, to train terrorists, to communicate with followers, to plot attacks and to send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan."

He described the border as "the most dangerous place in the world" and the terrorists operating there as a "grave and urgent danger to the people of Pakistan."

Gillani told the Trib that Pakistan should not be "bracketed" with Afghanistan.

"On one side, there are no institutions," he said, referring to Afghanistan. "On the other side" -- meaning Pakistan -- "it's a nuclear power" with a parliament and other democratic institutions, a free press and judiciary, and "the most organized professional army."

"If you compare [Pakistan] alone with Afghanistan, people won't like it," he said. "That is the one thing [in] which we feel a little humiliated and let down."

Gillani sat for the interview beside a table topped by a gold- framed portrait of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, killed in a December 2007 terrorist attack, and by small green-and-white Pakistani flags.

Gillani served as national assembly speaker under Bhutto in the 1990s. He is prime minister under her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, who became president after the military regime of Pervez Musharraf was defeated in 2008 parliamentary elections.

The prime minister said he was pleased by Obama's call for $1.5 billion in civilian aid in each of the next five years because "dialogue and development" is essential to isolating and defeating Islamist extremists in Pakistan's seven Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or FATA, bordering Afghanistan.

He said he hopes the U.S. Congress expedites the aid's passage so that Pakistan can begin rebuilding tribal areas such as Bajour. The Pakistani army defeated militants there, he said, but much of the region's infrastructure was destroyed, forcing many of its people into refugee camps in the frontier city of Peshawar. …

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