British PM Cameron to visit Pakistan: Islamabad

4th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Pakistan has announced that British Prime Minister David Cameron would Tuesday make his first visit to the nuclear-armed South Asian country since taking office nearly a year ago.

Cameron's visit comes nine months after he sailed into a diplomatic row with Pakistan over remarks he made in the country's arch rival India last July that elements in the Muslim majority country were promoting the "export of terror".

Cameron is to arrive in Islamabad for a one-day visit at the invitation of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistani foreign ministry said.

"Pakistan attaches considerable importance to the British prime minister's visit and to the close cooperative relationship with the United Kingdom," it said in a statement.

After the damaging diplomatic row, Cameron and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari put on a show of unity after talks in London last August, describing the bond between Pakistan and the former colonial power as unbreakable.

Cameron at that time accepted an invitation to visit Islamabad and agreed to a yearly summit to strengthen ties.

But Zardari later admitted that Cameron's comments had hurt him, not least because his wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, had been assassinated in a gun and suicide attack in 2007.

More than 4,200 people have been killed across Pakistan in attacks blamed on Taliban and other Islamist extremist networks, which are based along the Afghan border, since government troops stormed a radical mosque in Islamabad in 2007.

India and the United States also blamed Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba for the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 166 people and derailed the peace process between India and Pakistan, which have fought three wars since 1947.

Islamabad says it is committed to fighting militants in the region, including in Afghanistan, where the Taliban have waged a fierce insurgency since the US-led invasion drove them from power in 2001.

Western officials want Pakistan to launch a major offensive in North Waziristan, considered the bastion of groups fighting US-led troops in Afghanistan, but Pakistan says its military is overstretched elsewhere.

Earlier this year, the Cameron government moved to ban the Pakistani Taliban, making membership a criminal offence and rendering illegal any attempts to raise money for the group in the country.

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article