Pakistan incurred $34.5 bn losses in war against terror: FM
NEW YORK: Pakistan suffered huge losses, amounting to US $34.5 billion, since 2001 for its role in the war against terror and wants regional ownership of the crisis in a bid to bring peace and stability to the troubled region, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said Wednesday.
"Pakistan paid a huge price; both in economic and human terms, to protect itself and the world," he told a news briefing.
The foreign minister met reporters after President Asif Ali Zardari's participation in the trilateral summit, involving Saudi Arabian King Abdullah and Afghan President Hamid Karzai, he said it was part of the "several regional initiatives" being taken to stabilize the strife-torn area.
Qureshi said he had accepted an invitation from French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in this regard and that France was one of the several players directly or indirectly involved in the process to accomplish the objective of a peaceful Afghanistan.
Responding to questions, the foreign minister was cautious in giving out details of the hour-long summit meeting because, he said several initiatives were ongoing and results would take time. "It's a long haul ... progress has been made," he said.
But he added, "It was not a mere get together, it was a meeting between three very serious players, with an agenda to attain peace and stability in the region."
Qureshi said the situation in the region was not merely an issue between Pakistan and Afghanistan and there was a need of taking regional ownership of the issue.
About inclusion of Taliban in the talks, the foreign minister said the Afghan government was not averse to their inclusion, provided they recognised the country's constitution and vowed not to resort to non-violent means.
He said there has been a "visible change" in the relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan since President Zardari assumed his office, putting an end to the blame game of the past. He also pointed at the successful conclusion of the mini peace jirga in Islamabad recently.
The foreign minister said the president in his interaction with the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on the margins of the interfaith dialogue discussed the broad-based relationship between the two countries, the third round of the strategic dialogue.
Asked whether Pakistan had lodged a protest with the US over the strikes inside Pakistan's territory, the foreign minister said Pakistan had protested several times as it not only causes collatoral damage, but that such actions were counterproductive and led to alienation.
He said Pakistan was in touch with other members of the coalition forces in Afghanistan and pointed that they have a better understanding of Pakistan's point of view.
Qureshi denied reports of any meeting between President Zardari and the CIA chief Michael Hayden, or the Israeli President Shimon Peres, during his stay in New York, saying such contacts were not on the cards.
About Dr Aafia Siddiqui, the Foreign Minister said Pakistan was trying for her repatriation to Pakistan through diplomatic means. Every effort was being made to protect her rights.
The Foreign Minister said the high level meeting interfaith dialogue was aimed at removing misunderstandings between Islam and the West and pointed that there was an urgent need to address the critical issue of "Islamophobia".
About any meeting with the US President elect, the foreign minister said Barack Obama already had a telephonic talk with President Zardari as Pakistan was one of the six main allies of the United States.
He said there was a bi-partisan consensus emerging between the Republicans and the Democrats as they were agreed on building a long-term engagement with Pakistan.