Be firm with Pakistan on extremism: British MP

29th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Western powers must be firm with Pakistan about its need to crack down on Islamic extremists, but there is no alternative to continuing to work directly with Islamabad, British lawmaker David Miliband said Friday.

Miliband, foreign secretary from 2007 until Britain's Labour Party lost power last year, voiced alarm at the influence inside Pakistani society of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a militant group blamed for the deadly 2008 siege of Mumbai.

"We should be engaging with Pakistan; on the other hand, I feel very comfortable speaking very plainly about the responsibilities that they have," Miliband said at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington.

Pakistan needs to do more to hold assailants for the Mumbai attack accountable and if Lashkar-e-Taiba is expanding its reach, "then we need to be even more insistent on the need to roll up that infrastructure," he said.

But Miliband, who said he would soon travel to Pakistan, called on the United States along with the South Asian nation's neighbors to keep trying to engage both politically and economically.

"One of the most chilling things I've heard and read over the last few months is that America has a choice about whether or not to sever its links with Pakistan," Miliband said.

"Because if you think it difficult, frustrating, enervating, dangerous dealing with Pakistan at the moment as a partner, try fulfilling your own interests in South Asia without Pakistan as a partner," he said.

Miliband welcomed a letter sent by President Barack Obama to his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari in late 2009, in which the US leader offered expanded cooperation but demanded Islamabad do more against Islamic militants in India and Afghanistan.

"It was a very important step, proposing a strategic relationship for the US and Pakistan to replace the unbalanced -- essentially military-only relationship, individual leader-based relationship -- of the past," he said.

"I have criticized the Pakistani government for the way in which it failed adequately to respond to the significance of the outreach," he said.

Pakistan has a historic rivalry with India and helped create Afghanistan's Taliban, but it abruptly sided with the United States after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

© 2011 AFP

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