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Pakistan ready to provide extra security
- Reel saga keeps kargil memories alive

Islamabad, Dec. 27: Pakistan today sought to allay fears that the recent suicide attack on President Pervez Musharraf would derail the South Asian regional summit it is hosting early next month in the capital city.

“Security arrangements for the summit are comprehensive and none of the member countries has approached us for extra security measures,” foreign secretary Riaz H. Khokhar said at a news conference.

“All heads of state/government of the seven member states will attend the summit from January 4 to 6,” Khokhar said, asked if Pakistan feared if any leader might back out because of security concerns.

Musharraf, too, had brushed aside fears about security when he appeared on state television hours after Thursday’s attack in Rawalpindi to say that the car bomb assault was targeted at him.

Khokhar, however, said Pakistan would be happy to look into any request for additional security during the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation summit.

A five-member team of Indian security officials had recently visited Pakistan to review arrangements and informed authorities they would ferry the vehicles to be used by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee during the meeting.

“We are confident of providing security. If anyone wants it (extra security), we will welcome it and try to satisfy them,” Khokhar said.

While the foreign secretary tried to underscore Pakistan’s commitment to host the conference, authorities detained 40 people for questioning on Thursday’s incident, which claimed 17 lives.

Information minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad said the government has penetrated at least 70 per cent of the terror network involved in the attack. But he refused to identify the network. “It is a mixed bag of Pakistani/foreigner elements, who are unhappy with Pakistan’s war-on-terror policy and handling of the nuclear issue, who are behind the attack,” he said in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan recently detained several top scientists following allegations of leaking nuclear technology to Iran.

Besides allaying fears about the Saarc summit, Khokhar talked about its agenda.

He said apart from discussing agreements, conventions and protocols on suppression of terrorism, drug smuggling and trafficking of women and children for prostitution, the summit would also consider the draft of the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (Safta).

Conceding difference of opinion among member states, particularly the least developed nations on certain sub-clauses of the treaty, he maintained that the agreement would be discussed threadbare in the forum’s standing committee and council of ministers before it goes to the summit for approval.

Small nations such as Bangladesh fear that Safta might harm their interests and are, therefore, demanding concessions from the bigger powers.

Pakistan has already agreed to negotiate the Preferential Trade Agreement with Bangladesh and the two countries are expected to sign a formal agreement some time after June next year.

“As for Pakistan, it also stands for free trade but would first like to resolve outstanding disputes, including Kashmir, with India,” Khokhar said.

He dismissed any shift in Pakistan’s policy vis-à-vis Kashmir, but said Islamabad would persist in its efforts to promote regional trade.

Khokhar said issues like the possible expansion of the Saarc might come up for discussion when the leaders meet in retreat on January 5 for two hours.

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