Nawaz Sharif denies links with religious hardliners

* PML-N chief gives Obama plan cautious welcome

* Rejects charges against ISI
* Calls for an end to US drone attacks

LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif denied in an interview with Reuters on Tuesday that he has had links with religious hardliners.

He said the accusations were propaganda unleashed by General Pervez Musharraf, who deposed him in a coup in 1999.

Although members of the PML-N sometimes characterise the war on terror as America’s war and not Pakistan’s, Nawaz distanced himself from this view. “The concerns of the West are genuine and they need to be addressed in all seriousness. The problems Pakistan faces are very tough and very serious, and in fact are endangering our state in a very serious way.

“I personally think that no party singlehandedly, whether in the government, or outside the government, would be able to deal with these problems. We all will have to fight these problems together.”

He said the new US administration was much better than the previous one, but needed to understand his country’s concerns.

He said reaction to President Barack Obama’s new plan for Pakistan and Afghanistan, announced last week, had been ‘mixed’ in the country.

“As we are very willing to address the concerns of all our allies and friends, I think they should also understand our problems and handicaps,” he said. “It has to be reciprocal.”

Nawaz Sharif rejected the charges that the ISI has links with Taliban, saying there was not “any room for any suspicion of the ISI”.

He also called for an end to American drone attacks on Pakistan’s Tribal Areas. “Some of the policies followed by President Bush have given rise to a lot of anti-American feeling in Pakistan,” he said.

“For example the drone attacks are affecting our relationship. The people of Pakistan have criticised them very severely. It damages the sovereignty of our country. On this issue the United States of America must move carefully.” reuters



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