Pakistan a victim of terrorism, not epicentre: Nawaz Sharif

Re-affirming his government’s resolve to  stamp out terrorism, Prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif Tuesday rejected an assertion by his Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh that Pakistan was an “epicentre of terrorism”, saying his country was victim of the menace.

“Pakistan is neither a source of, nor the epicentre of terrorism, as is  sometimes alleged,” he told a distinguished gathering at the the US Institute of Peace here. “In fact, Pakistan itself has been a major victim of this scourge, for  over a decade,” the prime minister said without naming the Indian leader who made the allegation in his speech to the  U.N. General Assembly in September.

“My government is firmly committed to ending cycle of violence in  Pakistan,” he said. “We want to transform our relations with friends around the world, as well as our immediate neighbours,” he added.

Besides asking US to “do more” to help Pakistan-India to “resolve their  disputes, including Kashmir”, Sharif also sought from Washington what he called “a non-discriminatory approach in fields like civil nuclear cooperation”.

Without referring to the landmark India-US nuclear deal, he said “we  would hope for ‘a non-discriminatory approach in fields like civil nuclear cooperation” as he asked US to help in developing Pakistan’s economy, not only through aid but by promoting trade. Contrary to the popular perception, Pakistan-US relations have stood the test of time, said Sharif but added the relations should be based on mutual interest and mutual respect.

On Afghanistan, Sharif said: “We strongly support an inclusive  Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process” and had “no favourites in Afghanistan”. “We fully believe that a peaceful, stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s vital interest,” he said.

Pakistan’s sacrifices in the struggle against terrorism and extremism are well known, the prime minister said. “We have faced hundreds of suicide attacks in the past decade, losing over 7,000 of our brave soldiers, security personnel and policemen, while our civilian casualties exceed 40,000. Our sacrifices are immeasurable, both in terms of the loss of human lives and the damage caused to our infrastructure.

“My government is firmly resolved to bringing this cycle of bloodshed  and violence to an end, but it cannot be done over-night, nor can it be done by unleashing senseless force against our citizens, without first making every effort to bring the misguided and confused elements of society, back to the mainstream.

We also have to ensure that the political parties and civic society are on the same page, so as to create the enabling environment necessary to tackle this menace.”