Zardari rejects Obama's AFPAK policy

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Islamabad, Sep.10 (ANI): Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday questioned the efficacy of President Barack Obama's AFPAK policy that links US policy on Pakistan and Afghanistan to ending a Taliban insurgency in the region.

"Afghanistan and Pakistan are distinctly different countries and cannot be lumped together for any reason," Zardari said in an interview with the Financial Times on the anniversary of his first year in office.

Pakistan, he said, is unwilling to be aligned in a joint policy framework with neighbouring Afghanistan.

Zardari and his senior officials draw a distinction between a Pakistan with functioning institutions, diversified economy and a powerful national army, and Afghanistan, a state shattered by decades of conflict and ethnic divisions.

Ending the Taliban insurgency raging on both sides of the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is only likely to be achieved by concerted military action by NATO forces fighting in Helmand and Kandahar and Pakistan's army in Waziristan and other tribal areas along the border.

Zardari said that President Obama's Special Envoy to the region, Richard Holbrooke had brought a 'unique focus on relations with Pakistan' and acknowledged the emphasis President Obama had put on Pakistan's economic and energy needs.

Zardari is scheduled to meet with President Obama and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in New York later this month and is likely to air his concerns on AFPAK. He is also scheduled to meet US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Islamabad next month.

Zardari said that he would appeal for more financial assistance to Pakistan, which he says is essential to ending the menace of terrorism.

"Pakistan does not have the luxury of time. Given the severity of the internal security challenge the country is facing, it is critical that the economy is provided a strong stimulus as quickly as possible so that the maximum number of jobs are created in the shortest time," he said.

"If international aid flows are delayed beyond the next few months, the country will be forced to cut development spending as well as the provision of critical social services. You can then imagine how big a setback that could be for the global war on terror," he added. (ANI)

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