Washington: Pakistan, once supportive of a Taliban government in Afghanistan, has clarified that it does not want a militant takeover in its northwestern neighbourhood.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who was on a visit to Washington recently, told the National Public Radio that Pakistan was in favour of the reconciliation process, but said this has to be an Afghan-led process.
"There was a time when there was a Taliban government in Afghanistan and Pakistan felt comfortable with that. But today, we do not want the Taliban to take over Afghanistan," he said in an interview.
Pakistan was the chief supporter of the Taliban regime from 1996 until it was ousted in a US-led military operation after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
What the American people need to understand is people in Pakistan, democracy in Pakistan -- they are getting their act together, Qureshi said.
This partnership can really help create a moderate democratic voice in the Islamic world, he said in response to a question.
"What we have said is the process (of reconciliation) should be Afghan led and Afghan owned. We are only here to facilitate if desired. Whatever we can do to achieve the objective of a peaceful, friendly Afghanistan, we're willing to do that," he said.
When asked about the anti-US feeling in Pakistan, the foreign minister said there is a need to change the perception of the other in each country.
"I think perceptions have to change on both sides. Often people overlook the positives that have taken place," he said.
"For example, there was a story in one of your newspapers saying the delegation to the talks is going to be led by the Army chief and not the foreign minister.”
"Now, there's another way to look at it and that was for the first time in Pakistan's history, there is a delegation where the civil leadership is leading the delegation and the military leadership has agreed to come along and they're speaking with one voice. Now, it's how you look at it," he said.
Similarly, in Pakistan, we've got to improve American image. And that's not just improved by doling out money. For example, in 2005 when there was an earthquake in Pakistan, the American doctors, the American helicopters were used to help pull out the injured from the affected areas. That created huge goodwill for the American people and the American government, he said.
Qureshi did not say anything as to what was the response from the US when he sought a civilian nuclear deal with the US.
"The most important thing is recognising that there is a need to fulfil the energy gap -- that our indigenous resources that can be exploited and we also have the option of civilian nuclear technology," he said.
"Now, today's Pakistan is a lot different from what you are referring to. Today we have a very strong and well-recognised command and control structure. American senior officials have commented on that. All the restraints are there and we are in a far better position than anyone else," Qureshi said.
First Published: Saturday, March 27, 2010, 11:37