Pakistani parties join hands to prevent souring of India ties

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS,

Islamabad : Pakistani politicians have agreed to come together to tackle the diplomatic crisis arising out of India blaming “elements in Pakistan” for the Mumbai terror attacks even as tribal leaders in the restive North West Frontier Province (NWFP) urged the government to remove troops from their region and focus on securing the border with India.

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Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has asked all political parties to attend the National Security Conference, which is scheduled to be held Tuesday.

The main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is willing to participate in the meet.

“We will go to the conference and are ready to play our role,” PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told IANS.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) leader Azim Tariq said members of the party will attend the conference as “it is an issue of national importance”.

The Jamaat-e-Islami said it will decide whether to attend the meet by Monday evening. However, a party leader told IANS: “I don’t see to any reason for us to stay away from a meeting to discuss a critical issue.”

Meanwhile, tribal elders in NWFP said the government should remove the forces deployed on the Afghan border and focus on the eastern front.

At a press conference in Peshawar Sunday, local leaders, including Malik Muhammad Afzal Khan Darpakhel, Malik Qismat Khan Kabulkhel, Malik Usman and Malik Abdul Qadir, assured the government that they would guard the country’s western frontier.

“The government should rely on tribesmen for the protection of western borders and give them a chance to fight anyone daring to cross the border,” a tribal leader said.

Militant groups fighting in the tribal areas also offered to observe a ceasefire if Pakistan stops cooperating with the US.

“We are ready to cooperate with the government if they stop helping the American forces,” said a statement issued by the Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi group that is fighting for implementation of Islamic laws in the country.

Gilani, who cancelled his visit to Hong Kong, also contacted international leaders to brief them on the security situation and possible fallout of the Mumbai carnage on Pakistan-India relations.

“We understand that there is no immediate threat of war but we don’t even want to derail the peace process between the two countries,” a diplomat said.

He added that President Asif Ali Zardari had also spoken to several world leaders, including Afghan President Hamid Karzai, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.

Zardari assured them that Pakistan was ready to cooperate with India on the issue of terrorism if any “solid evidence” is provided to Islamabad regarding Pakistan or its people’s involvement in the carnage, which left at least 183 dead and 239 injured.