Pakistani security officials snub Britain

Aug. 2, 2010 at 6:23 AM
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, Aug. 2 (UPI) -- Pakistani security officials canceled a trip to London after comments by the British prime minister, made in India, that questioned Pakistan's commitment to anti-terrorist strategies.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told reporters in Bangalore last week that Britain and the West want to see a strong and democratically stable Pakistan. But he warned also against Pakistan thinking it can also export terrorism with impunity.

"We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world," Cameron said.

The remarks caused outrage in Islamabad and incensed many prominent Pakistanis with close ties to Britain.

The comments also sent British diplomats and elements of the government in London into fence-mending mode because of the official visit this week of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. He will likely spend time in personal discussions with Cameron at Chequers, the official country residence of British prime ministers.

Officials at Britain's Foreign Office said the president's trip remains as scheduled but Lt. Gen. Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, head of the Inter-Services Intelligence, won't be going to London this week for talks on counter-terrorism co-operation with British security services next week.

"The visit has been canceled in reaction to the comments made by the British prime minister against Pakistan," an ISI spokesman said. "Such irresponsible statements could affect our co-operation with Britain."

Cameron, the Conservative Party leader, was on an official trip to India designed to strengthen business, technological and cultural ties with the country that gained its independence from Britain in 1949.

Carved out of the British Indian territory was the country of Pakistan, at the time divided into West and East Pakistan, which later separated from Pakistan to become Bangladesh.

Britain's former Foreign Secretary David Miliband said the cancellation of Pasha's trip was "clearly bad news" and he accused Cameron of alienating Pakistan which is, after all, important ally. "Britain needs good relations with Pakistan and Pakistan good relations with Britain," he said.

Despite the political rhetoric, Cameron's remarks were similar to what many have said, although less publicly, in the recent past. Former Labor Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who lost the general election in May, said that three-quarters of terrorist plots under investigation in Britain have links to Pakistan.

A report published in June by the London School of Economics said that Pakistan "appears to be playing a double game of astonishing magnitude" in Afghanistan.

The report's author, Matt Waldman, a Harvard analyst, argues previous studies significantly underestimated the influence of Pakistan's ISI over the Taliban. He said that "support is official ISI policy."

Part of the report, published by the London newspaper The Guardian, claimed the ISI works closely with the Taliban on strategies and tactics.

"As the provider of sanctuary and substantial financial, military and logistical support to the insurgency, the ISI appears to have strong strategic and operational influence -- reinforced by coercion," the newspaper said. "There is thus a strong case that the ISI orchestrates, sustains and shapes the overall insurgent campaign."

The report says Zardari has met captured Taliban leaders to assure them of his government's full support but Zardari's spokesman vigorously denied this.

Part of Britain's cultural heritage to the subcontinent is the game of cricket. Cricket legend -- now Pakistani politician -- Imran Khan slammed Cameron over his remarks, warning they would radicalize more young Muslims against the West.

Khan, founder of the Movement for Justice party, said his country suffered more from terrorism than any other nation.

Speaking on a BBC morning radio news program, Khan said attacks by U.S. drones that killed civilians in Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan were risking civil war.

Also, suicide bombers target Pakistan more than neighboring countries, a reference to India.

"There's a lot of anger in Pakistan at David Cameron's statements," he said. "People feel this country is the biggest sufferer of terrorism. We've had over 30,000 casualties in a war Pakistan has had nothing to do with -- there was no Pakistani involved in 9/11.

"The failure in Vietnam was blamed on Cambodia and Cambodia was destroyed by the bombing. Today, Pakistan is being bombed by its ally, the U.S. ... killing mostly innocent people."

Khan said the threat to the West comes not from Afghanistan and Pakistan but "from the radicalized Muslim youth in the Western countries. We are being blamed for the complete failure of this Afghanistan campaign."

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