Gilani invites US special envoy Holbrooke to Pakistan

Friday, January 23, 2009

ISLAMABAD - With US President Barack Obama serving notice that he expects Pakistan to do more in the war against terror, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has invited newly-appointed special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke to visit this country to work out the way ahead.

‘We are looking forward to engaging with him. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has invited him to come to Pakistan and we hope to see him soon,’ The News Saturday quoted Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir as saying.

‘He is a person who is both an accomplished diplomat, understands the complexities of the region and, in him, we find a very pragmatic person,’ he added.

According to Bashir, the government wanted to work closely with Holbrooke to focus on developing a workable approach on security and anti-terrorism.

‘It is quite clear that there is no military solution given the existing complexities. If someone mentions the military surge, then we would like to also add the political surge, or the civilian surge as NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said yesterday (Thursday),’ Bashir maintained.

Obama said Thursday Islamist extremists in Pakistan and Afghanistan posed a grave threat that his administration would tackle as a single problem under a wider strategy.

He also termed Afghanistan and Pakistan as ‘the central front’ in the fight against terrorism and extremism.

‘My administration is committed to refocusing attention and resources on Afghanistan and Pakistan and to spending those resources wisely,’ Obama said Thursday on a visit to the State Department on his second day in office to set his foreign policy priorities.

‘And that’s why we are pursuing a careful review of our policy,’ the president added.

Hours after assuming office Tuesday Obama had warned Pakistan that future non-military aid would be linked to Islamabad’s efforts in the war against terror.

For his part, Holbrooke ‘remained the talk of the town, particularly at the foreign office’, The News said.

‘While his skills are yet to be tested in some of the most complex situations that surround Pakistan and Afghanistan, he would soon realise the importance of engaging other countries in Pakistan’s neighbourhood and their ‘indirect’ links in an effort to curb terrorism and bring stability to the whole region,’ the newspaper added.

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