Obama wants to reach out to Pakistanis

CHICAGO: Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama says he will reach out to the Pakistani people to build a lasting relationship, rather than look for temporary alliances with their government.

In an exclusive interview with IANS, Obama acknowledged that the US and Pakistan must continue fighting terrorism together, but said working for the peopleís social and economic welfare is important.

“While the US and Pakistan must continue to work together to combat terrorism that has claimed innocent lives in both countries and to destroy the terrorist sanctuaries along the Afghan-Pakistan border, I will make helping Pakistan tackle critical challenges like illiteracy, poverty, and lack of healthcare a key priority, by increasing aid in these areas,” Obama said.

In what could be seen as a contrast to the Bush administrationís Pakistan policy that appeared to stress relations with the Musharrafís military regime, Obama said: “I will stand up for democratic institutions, civil society and judicial independence in Pakistan.”

Underlining the orientation that an Obama administration will take if he is elected, he said: “I want to build a broad-based and lasting relationship with the people of Pakistan – not just temporary alliances with their government.”

He added: “I co-sponsored legislation with Senator Lugar to triple non-military assistance to Pakistan and sustain it for the next decade.” “If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf does not act, we will,” Obama said. But now with Pervez Musharraf gone, he emphasised in this interview: “Working together with Pakistan to destroy the terrorist sanctuaries along the Afghan-Pakistan border.”

The News, 24/10/2008

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