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Zardari promises to 'eradicate' Haqqanis

10 November, 2011

KARACHI: A delegation of US Congressmen led by Michael McCaul (Republican) called on President Asif Ali Zardari.
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ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari promised to work with the United States to "eradicate" the Haqqani network, a pledge made during a meeting with visiting American congressmen, according to one of the lawmakers.

The head of the Homeland Security delegation, Michael McCaul, appeared to brush off threats that US aid spending to Pakistan could be significantly cut if Islamabad did not do more to squeeze insurgents like the Haqqanis. "I think he thinks it's a given that we are going to continue the aid, but I tried to tell him that it's in jeopardy," McCaul, a Republican congressman from Texas, said of Zardari.

He said, 'I appreciate your assistance, but it's trade more than aid that I need.' McCaul and the visiting lawmakers met with Zardari in Karachi on Tuesday, and revealed details of his conversation later the same day.

Discussing Pak-US bilateral relations and recent developments, the president called for mutual understanding of each other's point of view and need for greater interaction at all levels to avoid any misunderstanding and negative impressions that would potentially endanger close working relationship at this critical hour. President Zardari emphasised upon the need for both sides to exercise restraint and avoid uncalled for public criticism as it undermines efforts to stabilise the equation and working closely for shared goals.

He said the democratic dispensation of Pakistan believed in trade rather than aid as a solution to the weak and stressed economy. The president also called for expediting ROZs legislation, terming it crucial for creating economic opportunities particularly for the people of militancy-hit areas. About war against militancy and its impacts on Pakistan economy, the president said that combined affects of war against militancy and the recent natural calamities, have adversely impacted Pakistan economy thus restricting government efforts to provide economic relief to the people.

He said that under the prevailing situation, international assistance in various projects was critical. Discussing regional situation, the president reiterated Pakistan's principled stance of its abiding interest in the stability of Afghanistan. He said Pakistan has always called for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned solution. He vowed Pakistan would continue to support all efforts, directed towards permanent peace, stability and development of Afghanistan.

The Haqqani network is an al Qaeda linked militant group with roots in eastern Afghanistan that has long been based in the Pakistani border region of North Waziristan. US and NATO officials say it is currently the most deadly foe in Afghanistan. The problem is especially acute because Washington is committed to withdrawing most of its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Seeing the country fall back into the hands of the Taliban or descend into bloody civil war would be a crushing failure for Washington.

The US has been applying steady pressure on Pakistan to tackle the Haqqanis, but with little effect. Islamabad is widely believed to be reluctant to move against the Haqqanis.

Meanwhile, the head of the Homeland Security delegation, Michael McCaul, downplayed the significance of President Asif Ali Zardari's remarks about "eradicating" the Haqqani network, saying it was unclear whether President Zardari had the power to make good on his pledge, given the influence of the military in Pakistan.

"The president, on the record, said 'I am going to work with you to eradicate them,'" McCaul said. He further quoted Zardari as saying: "I know these people very well, they are snakes and I'm going to go after all of them."

McCaul said he welcomed the president's statement, but "the real question is how much does this president control the military" and the country's spy service. McCaul said the American delegation asked to meet the Pakistani army and spy chiefs, but this was not possible.

He said that US will continue to attach great importance to bilateral relations.


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