U.S. official 'satisfied' with Pakistani cooperation

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A top U.S. official gave Pakistan millions of dollars worth of communications equipment Tuesday to help track down al-Qaida fugitives, declaring the United States was satisfied with Pakistan's "great cooperation" in the war on terror.

The $4.5 million equipment is part of a $73 million package of U.S. donations aimed at helping Pakistan patrol its porous border with Afghanistan.

"We're satisfied with the great cooperation and I reiterated that this is in the interest of Pakistan as well," U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca told reporters after a ceremony for the donation.

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that most al-Qaida and senior Taliban fugitives are in Pakistan's remote tribal regions, which are controlled by deeply conservative Muslims loath to turn in fellow believers to non-Muslims.

The job of tracking down fleeing al-Qaida and Taliban became harder after October general elections in Pakistan that gave conservative religious parties -- who openly support the Taliban -- control of the two key border provinces.

The religious parties, who campaigned on a strong anti-American platform, say they do not want U.S. intelligence officials or U.S. soldiers to operate in their provinces.

But Pakistan's Interior Minister Faisal Salah Hayat said Tuesday that Pakistan's commitment to the war on terrorism was unwavering.

"Pakistan has wholeheartedly supported the United States and the coalition partners in the war against terrorism," Hayat said. "Pakistan does not and will not allow anyone to use its soil for any kind of terrorist activities."

In recent weeks, dozens of members of outlawed militant organizations have been released from jail by Pakistani courts. Among the most notorious suspects freed was Hafiz Saeed, head of the banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, a militant organization waging a guerrilla war in Indian-ruled Kashmir.

Also freed was Massoud Azhar, the chief of Jaish-e-Mohammed, also outlawed and declared a terrorist organization by the United States.

While Hayat noted the men were freed by court orders, authorities in the North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan province -- both bordering Afghanistan -- ordered dozens of followers of outlawed organizations freed, saying they had no evidence on which to hold them.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf last January banned five militant organizations following a Dec. 13 attack on the Indian Parliament that raised the risk of war with Pakistan.

Rocca met Musharraf earlier Tuesday. Details of the meeting were not available. She also met with Foreign Ministry and Interior Ministry officials, and was slated to meet with Pakistan's newly elected Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali.

Rocca was to leave for Nepal on Wednesday.

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