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Clinton, In Pakistan, Says 'This Is Not Your Fight Alone'

  • Abubakar Siddique

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the historic Badshahi Mosque in Lahore.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the historic Badshahi Mosque in Lahore.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spent a busy day in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore, visiting a mosque and shrines, holding a lively town hall meeting with skeptical university students, and meeting with key local officials and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.

Addressing university students just a day after a powerful car bomb killed more than 100 people, mostly women and children, in the northwestern city of Peshawar, Clinton reiterated the Obama administration's resolve in helping Islamabad deal with its complex security challenges.

"Now, these attacks may be happening on your territory, but this is not your fight alone," she said. "These extremists are committed to destroying that which is dear to us, as much as they are committed to destroying that which is dear to you and to all people. And you're standing on the front lines of this battle, but we are standing with you."

Shahed Sadullah, a Pakistan analyst and the London-based editor of "The News" newspaper, tells RFE/RL that Clinton's visit is primarily aimed at "shoring up" the United States' relationship with Pakistan, which has come under scrutiny following the introduction in Washington of a multiyear aid bill.

The Kerry-Lugar bill -- sponsored by Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar, and Representative Howard Berman -- calls for $1.5 billion in mostly civilian aid for Islamabad over the next five years. In Pakistan, opposition politicians and the military have criticized the bill because of strict accountability measures written into it. They argue that the language of the bill could undermine Pakistani sovereignty.

"She has come here to say that, look, we realize that the war against terror is not just a physical war and it has other dimensions as well, and we are here to help in those other dimensions, like development," Sadullah says. "And I think one of the main things she is there for is to try and help Pakistan with its energy problem. It's more to shore up the economic and political end of the relationship."

At the start of her visit, Clinton on October 28 announced more than $240 million in aid to Pakistan to help the country deal with its crippling energy crisis and to help the thousands of civilian families displaced by the ongoing military offensive against extremists in the western South Waziristan district along the Afghan border.

If Clinton's trip this week is intended to counter anti-American sentiment in Pakistan, Sadullah suggests that one visit -- even by a senior administration official -- cannot resolve all the cracks in the Pakistan-U.S. relationship.

But Sadullah says the visit sets the right tone for building good future relations.

"I think the message she is trying to give is that the U.S. is a real partner to Pakistan," he says. "Not in a one dimensional sense but in a multidimensional sense."

The State Department is not providing details of her visit, but media reports suggest Clinton will remain in Pakistan for another two days.