ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan is committed to supporting the U.S.-led global coalition fighting al Qaeda and the Taliban but will not allow allied foreign forces to operate on its territory, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said.
“The international war against terrorism is our own war,” he said in a televised address focused on the performance of his three-and-a-half month old civilian coalition government.
“(But) we will not compromise on the sovereignty of Pakistan. No foreign power will be allowed to take action on Pakistani soil … any decision and any action within the frontiers of Pakistan will be taken by us with full responsibility,” he told the nation.
Pakistani is undergoing a precarious transition to civilian rule, with President Pervez Musharraf, who came to power as a general in a 1999 coup, taking a lower profile.
But the new coalition, led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, is faced with multiple problems, including an Islamic militant threat, an economy in trouble, plus power and grain shortages.
Washington backs its strategy of using tribal elders to persuade militants to give up fighting, but worries that Taliban groups have used the breathing space provided by talks to intensify cross-border attacks on Western forces in Afghanistan.
Gilani’s comments came amid growing fears in Pakistan that the United States may take a unilateral action against militants’ sanctuaries in the border areas.
Residents of Pakistani tribal areas on the Afghan border have reported an increased activity of pilotless U.S. drones.
Pakistani intelligence officials, and villagers near the border of North Waziristan and Afghanistan’s Khost province said last week large numbers of Western troops had been airlifted in and had begun building scores of bunkers along the frontier.
U.S. President George W. Bush this week said he was “troubled” by al Qaeda’s presence in Pakistan and would discuss the matter with Gilani when they meet in Washington on July 28.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has also accused Pakistan’s security apparatus of being behind a string of attacks in Afghanistan, including a suicide bombing outside the Indian embassy in Kabul that killed 58 people.
Without making any reference to fears of U.S. action in Pakistani tribal areas, Gilani said a meeting of the coalition leaders would be held next week, ahead of his visit to the United States, to devise a “comprehensive strategy”.
“We should tell the world that we ourselves are victim of terrorism and we will leave no stone unturned to combat it.”