Special force to fight terror: Asif

ISLAMABAD/LONDON - Ruling out any possibility of taking over the country by militants, President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday said that Pakistan was planning to form a special force to fight terrorists. He was talking to a US Congressional delegation, headed by Senator John Kyl, at Aiwan-e-Sadr. The President while reaffirming the commitment to flush out terrorists also made it clear to the US Congressmen that fight against terrorism could not be won only through military means. He said that military force is one of the ways to combat terrorism and the government in this regard has also adopted a peaceful strategy of holding dialogues with reconcilable elements, the militants who are willing to lay down arms. The President also said the international community has realised the significance of this approach, as President Obamas review strategy too reflects the same realisation. The US delegation comprises members of the Senate and the House of Representative from both the Republicans and the Democrats. Matters relating to new US initiative, announced by President Obama to fight militancy and terrorism in the region with focus on Afghanistan and Pakistan, also came under discussion during the meeting. President Zardari welcomes the focus of the international community on Pakistans help against militancy and extremism. He said that Pakistan needs economic assistance to help reduce poverty, equip special police force with modern weapons and train them to combat terror, as this would help fight militants more efficiently. Referring to the upcoming meeting of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan, the President said he would soon go to Tokyo to attend the meeting and expects generous political and strategic support of the international community for Pakistan. Meanwhile, President Zardari has said that he cannot condone the violations of sovereignty of Pakistan even when they are done by allies and friends, adding that he will much prefer that the US share its intelligence and give us the drones and missiles that will allow us to take care of this problem on our own. In an interview with British newspaper The Independent on Wednesday, President Zardari made it clear that Pakistan was willing to take out high-value targets on our own, and we welcome the technology and intelligence assistance that will give us the ability to succeed. He said: President Obama once said that he would act if we werent willing and able. We certainly are willing and with international support we will become even more able. The President also acknowledged that more than a year after elections, many in Pakistan are growing frustrated with a seeming lack of progress. After a decade of dictatorship the people had enormous expectations of rapid improvement in their lives. That is still very much our priority but the enormity of the economic crisis both within Pakistan and internationally, compounded by the war that we fight within and along our borders, has made progress much slower than we hoped. Asked about the disputes between his party and Nawaz Sharifs Pakistan Muslim League-N at a time when many hoped the countrys democratic parties would be working together, he said: The ups and downs of democracy should not be interpreted as a lack of stability. There is the usual tug-of-power politics and the tendency of some observers to paint doomsday scenarios. But I think the people appreciate that our democratic government is functioning. President Zardari said Pakistan was cooperating with Indias investigation into Novembers Mumbai attacks that left 164 people dead and that a substantial number of arrests had been made. He said those responsible were also threatening the very existence of his country. Asked about the nine militants whose bodies still lie in a Mumbai morgue, he said: Our investigation is continuing. Some of these terrorists may in fact have been born in Pakistan. But we believe that this operation was international, with significant support from within India itself. Asked about a deal to allow Sharia in the Swat valley, Zardari said he and his allies had been led by ground realities. He said the deal was intended to uncouple public demand for swifter justice from support for the Taliban. I think it would be premature to call it a bad deal. Its an evolving situation. Pakistan is under intense pressure to deal with the militants, especially those blamed for cross-border raids against Western troops in Afghanistan. Despite public denials, it is understood Pakistan cooperates with the US drone strikes. But there is little doubt that such tactics are increasingly unpopular with the Pakistani public.

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