Pakistan's Sharif warns US of 'war on terror' review

Pakistan's new government will review the country's role in the US-led "war on terror," former Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif said Tuesday after holding talks with a top American envoy.


Deputy US Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher flew into Islamabad for talks focusing on Pakistan's co-operation in efforts against Al Qaeda and Taliban militants.


They met key ally President Pervez Musharraf and Sharif, and were also due to see new prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, a senior aide of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto whose party is heading the new coalition government.


Sharif, whose party is also in the coalition, said he had told Negroponte that a parliamentary committee would examine Musharraf's policies since he first backed the US campaign against extremism in 2001.


"We discussed terrorism, we informed them our point of view is that since 9/11 all decisions were made by one man," Sharif, the man ousted by Musharraf in a coup in 1999, told reporters in Islamabad after the meeting.


"Now the situation has changed, a truly representative parliament has come into being. Every decision will be presented before the parliament, they will review Musharraf's policy [over] the [past] six years," he said.


Sharif said a lack of public support for Musharraf and his policies, coupled with the deaths of civilians in anti-militant operations, had harmed efforts to curb extremism.


Musharraf joined the "war on terror" and abandoned Pakistan's support for Afghanistan's Taliban regime after the 9/11 attacks on the United States, which were blamed on Al Qaeda militants harboured by the Taliban.


Pakistan has since pushed 90,000 troops into its tribal areas bordering Afghanistan in order to hunt for militants who sought sanctuary there, with more than 1,000 soldiers, at least as many militants and hundreds of civilians killed.


The country has also been hit by a wave of suicide bombings in the past year that has killed at least 1,000 people, most of them members of the security forces.


"Pervez Musharraf used the 'war on terrorism' to perpetuate his rule. No cabinet and no parliament was taken into confidence in any of his decisions. That is why it did not have popular support," Sharif said.


Sharif said that both the US and Pakistan wanted to see the world "free of terrorism" and for innocent people not to suffer, but that Islamabad had to consider national priorities as well as international ones.


"We want to see peace in every corner of the world and we want to see peace in Pakistan also. We do not want that in order to give peace to others we turn our own country into a murder house," he said.


Negroponte and Boucher later met Musharraf for around 90 minutes, officials said, but details of the talks were not immediately available.


Defence analyst Talat Masood said the main aim of the US visit was to ensure continued Pakistani co-operation.


"The US has a direct interest in the office of the president because of its control of the tribal belt and also as commander-in-chief of the armed forces," said Masood, a former army general.


"They [the US envoys] would like to reassure the new government of America's continued support and establish their contact with the new power structure in the frontline state in the 'war against terrorism,'" he said.


"They are fearful of any softening towards the militants by the incoming government," he added. (AFP)