PRINCETON, N.J. - Pakistan's top diplomat outlined a strategy for battling terrorism Wednesday that emphasizes going-it-alone militarily within Pakistani borders and talking with opponents if they lay down their arms.
The government's new "roadmap" also includes a media campaign to explain the importance to Pakistan's people of winning the war against extremists in tribal areas around neighboring Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said.
Pakistan's fight against the Taliban and al-Qaida militants comes years after Pakistani intelligence helped create the Taliban militia. Pakistan also was one of the few countries that gave diplomatic recognition to the Taliban's fundamentalist rule in Afghanistan.
"We are willing to take on the Taliban because we feel the Taliban are imposing a way of life on Pakistan that is not acceptable," Qureshi told 250 people during an hour-long speech at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. "We've agreed on a roadmap for the next few months."
He stressed that Pakistan will now "engage politically with the moderates, those who are willing to give up arms" and will "concentrate on the social, economic development" of the tribal belt.
"We will also use calibrated force. This is the new strategy that we have adopted," he said.
Washington has signaled its impatience with Pakistani efforts to eliminate militants implicated in attacks in Afghanistan, carrying out a series of suspected U.S. missile attacks as well as at least one cross-border ground assault in Pakistan's volatile northwest. U.S. and Pakistani forces recently traded fire in one skirmish.
Militants in the border region are blamed for the Sept. 20 truck bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad that killed more than 50 people.
A suspected U.S. missile strike on a Taliban commander's home in Pakistan this week killed six people, officials said Wednesday, a possible indication that Washington is moving ahead with cross-border raids despite protests from the new government.
"It hurts us even more when the transgressor is our friend and ally, the U.S.," Qureshi said. "If there are actions to be taken, the actions will be taken by Pakistan. ... I can understand the U.S. frustration. Things are going badly in Afghanistan."
Qureshi, part of the civilian government that came to power after February elections, emphasized that the fight against terrorism has also cost Pakistan many lives.
"Pakistan is a victim of terrorism," he said. "I must therefore confess to a degree of bewilderment that Pakistan is seen more as a problem in some U.S. circles than as a partner in this defining struggle of our times."
But he said that recent U.S. action inside Pakistan threatens the gains made in the anti-terror fight.
"U.S. troops are going into Pakistan in hot pursuit to threaten the elements that threaten Pakistan. This is certainly one way of looking at this matter. However, the Pakistani public rightly sees some attacks as a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty," he said.
The civilian government and the rise in September of Asif Ali Zardari, head of the Pakistan People's Party and widower of slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, to the presidency, brought some hope for political stability in Pakistan after turmoil that included emergency rule, Bhutto's assassination, a highly charged election, the collapse of a ruling coalition and former President Pervez Musharraf's resignation.