x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Pakistani PM hails 'excellent' links with Britain

Despite US criticism, Yusuf Raza Gilani insists country is committed to fighting terrorism and extremism.

LONDON // While Pakistan's relations with Washington remain rocky, its prime minister painted a positive picture yesterday of his country's ties with Britain, America's most obedient ally.

Stressing Pakistan's commitment to fighting terrorism and extremism, just days after stinging criticism from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Yusuf Raza Gilani met his UK counterpart, David Cameron, at Downing Street.

After indicating earlier this week that he was keen to resolve all outstanding issues with India, Mr Gilani and a clutch of Pakistani ministers were in Britain on a five-day official visit to review the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue agreed between the two nations when Mr Cameron visited Islamabad just over a year ago.

Describing relations with Britain as "excellent", Mr Gilani embarked on talks with Mr Cameron yesterday focused on security, education, health and cultural cooperation.

In an interview in yesterday's Guardian newspaper, Mr Gilani insisted that his nation had not been "complicit" in sheltering Osama bin Laden and blamed the fact that Al Qaeda's former leader had remained hidden in Pakistan for so long on a "universal failure" by intelligence services.

Mr Gilani admitted recent relations with the Obama administration had not been "too normal" since bin Laden was assassinated in May last year and 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in a Nato air strike in November.

But he said the CIA and ISI were still working together in an attempt to eliminate terrorist leaders.

Mr Gilani met UK political leaders at a reception in parliament on Wednesday but a planned conference with community groups in Birmingham had to be cancelled over security concerns arising from friction with his Pakistan Peoples Party.

He told the gathering at the House of Commons that combating terrorism was in Pakistan's national interest but said: "We have also repeatedly said that we would not allow our territory to be used for any kind of attacks on other countries and we expect that the soil of other countries would not be used against Pakistan."

Mr Gilani also reiterated his determination to remain as premier despite being convicted of contempt last month by Pakistan's Supreme Court for failing to reopen corruption charges against former president, Asif Ali Zardari.