WASHINGTON Pakistan's new ambassador to the United States is urging patience for those in Washington frustrated with his government's pursuit of peace deals with tribes along the lawless Pakistani-Afghan border.
Ambassador Husain Haqqani said in an interview with Associated Press reporters and editors Friday that the United States should judge the outcome of talks being conducted by Pakistan's "fledgling democracy," not the often contentious process of negotiating.
That may be difficult advice for U.S. critics who say peace talks have removed military pressure from the region and allowed terrorists to regroup and stage attacks on U.S. forces operating in Afghanistan.
Haqqani said Pakistan's government, which won elections in February against the party of President Pervez Musharraf, a staunch U.S. ally, is working to strike agreements that would require the tribes to give up their weapons, withdraw support for foreign fighters in their midst and "end attacks inside Pakistan, across the border and around the world."
"These are our own people," added the ambassador, once an adviser to former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif. "We cannot, just because somebody in the United States wants us to, just go and start bombing them, without at least going through the process of showing our desire to negotiate in good faith."
A poll released Friday showed strong public support in Pakistan for the government's policy of seeking peace with the militants. Meanwhile, tensions between the United States and Pakistan have been high since a U.S. airstrike last week killed 11 Pakistani border troops.
U.S. and Afghan officials say remnants of Afghanistan's Taliban militia are sheltering in Pakistan, which Pakistan denies. Militants based in Pakistani tribal areas, where Osama bin Laden and his top aide are believed to be hiding, say they are sending fighters to Afghanistan.
Robert Hathaway, director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Asia program, said ties between Pakistan and the United States are "very troubled."
"Suspicions between the American military and the Pakistani military are the highest they've been in many years, and there's a great deal of uneasiness in the United States because the new government in Pakistan seems to be bogged down and incapable of dealing with many of the serious issues confronting the country," Hathaway said in an interview.
Sen. Barack Obama, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate, triggered anger in Pakistan last year when he said that he might authorize U.S. troops to strike unilaterally in Pakistan if they located bin Laden.
Addressing Obama's comments, Haqqani said Pakistan understood that it was "a rhetorical answer to a hypothetical question and not a statement of policy."
He added, however, that "anyone thinking unilateral strikes inside Pakistan are a good idea needs to re-examine that position." Such an attack would "only infuriate the Pakistani public" and turn more people to extremism and against the United States.
The ambassador, in the interview Friday, also touched on the case of Abdul Qadeer Khan, a hero in the eyes of many Pakistanis for his key role in developing the Islamic nation's nuclear bomb. Khan acknowledged in 2004 that he had operated a network that spread nuclear weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya.
The United States has not requested that the new Pakistani government grant access to Khan, Haqqani said. But, he added, Islamabad would not provide access even if it was asked because all information that Pakistan has obtained on Khan's network has been shared. Pakistan would not hand over Khan, he said, because of the scientist's knowledge of "Pakistan's own strategic deterrent, and, therefore, it would be a security risk for Pakistan. No other country would do it either."