Pakistan protest over PM comments

BBC News |31 July 2010 08:27 GMT

Helping Afghan militants Pakistani intelligence officials have cancelled a visit to Britain in protest at comments made by David Cameron about the country’s alleged links to terror. The prime minister warned Pakistan not to have any relationship with groups that "promote the export of terror". Senior intelligence agency officials had been due to come to London for talks on counter-terrorism co-operation with the UK security services. A visit by the President, Asif Ali Zardari, is still expected to go ahead. Mr Cameron made the comments to reporters after a speech in the southern Indian city of Bangalore on Wednesday. He said: "We should be very, very clear with Pakistan that we want to see a strong, stable and democratic Pakistan. We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror, whether to India or whether to Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world."


His remarks followed the leaking of US documents on the WikiLeaks website in which Pakistan’s “Inter Services Intelligence agency” was accused of secretly helping the Afghan insurgency. Pakistani security sources confirmed the cancellation of the visit was as a direct result of Mr Cameron’s comments. They said his suggestion Pakistan was playing a "double game" in Afghanistan had caused a great deal of anger within Pakistan’s security establishment, government and civil society. Furious Pakistani foreign office statements have pointed to sacrifices made by the country. The BBC’s Aleem Maqbool said there has been an insistence that it would not affect wider co-operation between the two countries in fighting militancy. Pakistan’s allies will want this row resolved as soon as possible.  

Mr Cameron’s spokeswoman insisted he was talking about Pakistan as a country, not its government. She said that the main message was for Pakistan to shut "terror groups" down. Downing Street and the Foreign Office would not comment on the decision by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, but officials said Mr Zardari’s visit to the UK was expected to go ahead as planned. "Our understanding is that the visit is on," said a Foreign Office spokeswoman. Sir Hilary Synott, former British High Commissioner to Pakistan, said the fact that the comments were made in India would annoy Pakistan. But he said India and Britain had shared interests as both countries had been affected by the activities of groups such as Lashka-e-Toiba and Hakani network.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, there came a stage when private remonstrations do not work. "It’s quite clear Pakistan hasn’t been controlling these groups sufficiently, so there comes a time and it’s for a politician to judge this time, when these matters have to be said more strongly." Dr Farzana Sheikh, associate fellow at Chatham House think tank, said there was "deep disarray" inside the ranks of the Pakistani government, with the intelligence officials and military "clearly at odds" with the political leadership over how to react. "It’s clear the military and intelligence services want to show that they can act quite autonomously of the political leadership by announcing that Lt Gen Shuja Pasha will not be joining the president on his visit to the UK."


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