(Adds Boucher comments)
By Robert Birsel
ISLAMABAD, June 25 Pakistan said on Wednesday it
would not allow militants to attack Afghanistan from its
territory and it would never let foreign troops operate on its
The declaration came after threats from Afghan President
Hamid Karzai to send troops into Pakistan to fight Taliban
militants he says operate from border sanctuaries, and after 11
Pakistani border soldiers were killed in a U.S. air strike.
"Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used against
other countries, especially Afghanistan and under no
circumstances will foreign troops be allowed to operate inside
Pakistan," the government said in a statement after a top-level
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani presided over the meeting
which included federal and provincial government leaders and
military and security agency chiefs.
"The meeting unanimously agreed that elimination of
terrorism and extremism is the gravest challenge to Pakistan's
national security and to fight this menace a multi-pronged
strategy will be followed," the government said.
It was the strongest message on militancy yet from a
three-month old government that critics say has been preoccupied
with internal political wrangling and blind to looming security
The main thrust of the policy would be the political
engagement of the people through their elected representatives
and tribal elders, together with economic development and
"selective use of military force", the government said.
Richard Boucher, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South
and Central Asian affairs, welcomed the declaration at a hearing
on Pakistan before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee:
"We see this as a very important development. It brings
together all the proper players...It states very clearly the
goals of ending violent extremism, ending the cross border
activity and expelling the foreign fighters," he said
The government that emerged from February elections, made up
of President Pervez Musharraf's opponents, is trying to end
violence through talks with tribal elders in the hope they can
press militants in their areas to give up.
But the United States says negotiations and peace deals with
militants can give them a free hand to plot attacks and U.S.
military commanders in Afghanistan say Taliban attacks launched
from Pakistani border sanctuaries have been increasing.
The government said tribal elders would be responsible for
expelling foreign militants and for ensuring that militants did
not cross the border into Afghanistan.
"All agreements with the tribes ... will be backed by a
robust enforcement mechanism" with the government reserving the
right to use force, it said.
It did not refer to similar agreements struck under the
previous government which failed to curb militant violence and,
critics say, enabled the militants to regroup.
Many Pakistanis blame Musharraf's alliance with the United
States and his support for the U.S.-led campaign against
terrorism for a wave of violence in Pakistan in which hundreds
of people have been killed over the past year.
The two main partners in the new coalition government, slain
former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's party and that of another
former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, came to power after
promising a new approach, including negotiations.
But security has been deteriorating in several parts of the
northwest over recent days.
This week, Pakistani Taliban seized a town and killed more
than 30 rivals, kidnapped nearly 20 policemen in the
strategically important Khyber pass and battled soldiers and
police in a northwestern valley where a peace deal was struck
(Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)