Foreign Secretary David Miliband commented on the need for international cooperation with Pakistan in the fight against global terrorism during an interview with Sky News on Tuesday 24 March.
Read the transcript of the interview
Jeremy Thompson (JT): Sky News has learnt from intelligence sources that twenty young Britons trained here in Pakistan in militant camps are now back in the UK. Now we know that the British Government is working closely with Pakistan intelligence service trying to track those sort of people travelling backwards and forwards between the two countries.
So let’s get a view on that now from the British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who joins me now from Westminster. A very good evening to you Foreign Secretary.
David Miliband (DM): Good evening Jeremy.
JT: I’m sure you’re as worried as most people at the news that we’ve uncovered today that yet more young British but Pakistan connected youngsters have been trained here in militant camps and now back in the UK.
DM: Well I’ve not had an intelligence briefing to that effect, but what we know is that the majority of terrorist incidents that happen in the UK and the majority of terrorist inquiries do have links back in to Pakistan and particularly in to the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
So the emphasis that you are giving to the situation in Pakistan, the political situation, the security situation and the economic situation, is wholly welcome and wholly appropriate given the security requirements for this country and also for the very close links that exist between the UK and Pakistan.
JT: Well of course we understand that Pakistani intelligence services are going to hand the names over to the British intelligence services, do you see this as a positive sign? Is this a step forward in the co-operation between the two countries’security services?
DM: There’s been a long history of co-operation between the UK and the Pakistani authorities. Of course tens of thousands of British people go to and from Pakistan every year, but a number of them are of concern to us and that’s why our intelligence services and our Police liaise very closely with the Pakistani authorities.
I think that the most important change that’s going on in Pakistan at the moment is the realisation not just among civilian politicians, but also among the military, that the mortal threat to Pakistan as well as to countries like the UK comes from domestic terrorism. Remember that it was Pakistani terrorism which claimed the life of Benazir Bhutto, it’s Pakistani terrorism which has claimed the life, lives of many Pakistanis both in the Army, in the Frontier Corps, but also throughout the country in a series of suicide bombings, including the tragic incident yesterday.
So this is a fundamental challenge for the Pakistani Government, but also for the Pakistani state and the Pakistani people. And it’s very important that all friends of Pakistan rally to the side of its leaders. It’s also very important that the leaders come together, because this is no time for different political parties to be pointing fingers at each other. We need them working together against a common enemy.
JT: Well I spoke to President Zardari a couple of days ago here and he said that he felt the war against terror was winnable, but he needed considerably more help from countries like the UK and from the United States. Is that help of all sorts going to be forthcoming?
DM: Yes I think it is. I’ve obviously spoken many times to President Zardari and visited Pakistan four times in the last eighteen months. I think there is a fundamental change taking place and you can see that in the review that’s being undertaken by the Obama administration and which is due to report in the next couple of days. The new American administration, see the Afghanistan and Pakistan as two countries whose stability is linked.You can’t have stability in Afghanistan without stability in Pakistan.
Secondly they’ve said very clearly that there needs to be a rebalancing of the American relationship with Pakistan, not just a military relationship, but a civilian relationship and critically much greater investment in the social, educational infrastructure of Pakistan so that young Pakistani boys and girls get to go to school where they’re taught in a proper way, not groomed for radicalism and for terrorism. So that’s a very important step forward.
I also think it’s significant that the regional countries, including some of Afghanistan’s near neighbours, including Russia and Iran as well as India, have been invited by the Americans to a key meeting on the 31st of March in the Hague to look at how all countries can work together. So I think President Zardari is right to say that he needs international support. But it’s also imperative to say that the Pakistani state needs to direct its attention against the militants, against the dangers within its own country and the Pakistani opposition, Nawaz Sharif, led by Nawaz Sharif, support them.
JT: But can you really have faith in a country that’s so far in the fight on terror that so far doesn’t seem to have managed to have any successful prosecutions against any of the major terrorist incidents? I mean after all President Zardari still hasn’t, his services still haven’t managed to track down anybody, or prosecute anybody for the assassination of his own wife, or for the incident in Lahore against the Sri Lankan cricket team, or for the bombs here in Islamabad or any other major terrorist incidents.
DM: That’s a really good point.This is not about faith, it’s about results and I think that the history of the Pakistani state using links with militant groups, with terrorist groups in the mistaken belief that somehow they could be an instrument of state policy has been exposed as a failure, not least in the incidents that you’ve referred to. There is a critical test.
The bombings in, the, the attacks in Mumbai which claimed the lives of a hundred and eighty people towards the end of last year, present a clear test for the Pakistani authorities. They’ve now got people under arrest, they’ve got help from the Indian Government in amassing evidence. They now need to prosecute the people who are responsible, the Lashkar-e-toiba organisation which has its heart in the Punjab. That prosecution and then the punishment if they are found guilty is absolutely critical as a test of the Pakistani state’s capacity to exercise its national and international responsibilities. It will be a huge confidence builder if that prosecution goes through smoothly and effectively.
JT: Foreign Secretary thank you very much for talking to us on Sky News Live at Five.