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India, Pak are poor countries with same problems: Pak PM
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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December 15, 2008 23:57 IST

Pakistan does not want a war with India but was "prepared" to defend itself if aggression is imposed on the country in the aftermath of the Mumbai terror attacks [Images], Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [Images] said on Monday.

"We don't want to get involved in a war. I want to assure the House and the people that we do not want war, but if aggression is thrust on us, we will stand united as a proud nation," Gilani told the National assembly or lower house of parliament.

Pakistan and India are both poor countries dealing with problems like poverty, disease and terrorism, Gilani said, adding that world leaders have focused their efforts on defusing tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

He said Pakistan has also made all efforts to defuse tensions as it is a responsible nation and a nuclear power that wanted to behave gracefully.

The country's armed forces are fully prepared and alert and understand their responsibilities, he said.

The people, military and political leadership are united to protect the country's interests though no one can say we are on the defensive, he added.

"We are united on the issue of protecting Pakistan's security. We will defend Pakistan," he said.

The Mumbai terror attacks, which resulted in the death of over 180 people, were blamed by India on Pakistan-based elements sparking tensions between the two countries and triggering fears that New Delhi [Images] could carry out surgical strikes against terror camps in Pakistan.

Gilani renewed his government's commitment to not allow its soil to be used by terrorists, saying Pakistan condemned terrorism.

"We should never allow our territory to be used for terrorist activity. If our territory is used, more allegations could be leveled against us. We condemn terrorism wherever it is and terrorists have no religion, boundaries, scruples (and) principles," he said.

At the same time, the premier acknowledged that Pakistan had been on morally weak grounds when the UN Security Council passed a resolution for action against the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Lashker-e-Taiba leaders.

"We had to implement certain actions according to (UN) resolution," he said, referring to his government's crackdown on the Jamaat and its leaders, including the group's founder Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.

The government had frozen the Jamaat's funds and placed some of the group's leaders in "protective custody" for inquiry and investigation. The leaders have also been barred from travelling abroad, he said.

However, Gilani again ruled out handing over any terror suspects arrested in connection with the Mumbai attacks to any foreign country and said he had turned down British Premier Gordon Brown's request for UK authorities to be allowed to probe certain persons linked to the Mumbai attacks.

"I told him we will not allow it because this is our country and our laws will apply here. We will act (against the suspects) according to our own laws," he said.

The premier also said that the Jamaat's charitable organisations, including schools and dispensaries, will not be closed but their management will be changed and the government will look after them so that people can benefit from them. Gilani contended that tensions between India and Pakistan had escalated because of growing domestic pressure on the Indian government to take action in the wake of the attacks.

Pakistan had contacted several world leaders, including US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images], German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the Italian premier as part of efforts to defuse the tensions.

The German Chancellor had informed him that there were no concerns about the Pakistan government as only "some individuals, non-state actors and organisations" were believed to be involved in the Mumbai attacks, Gilani said.

The world leaders had assured him that "military action or war is not the answer for the problem" confronting Pakistan and India, he said.

The government had also forged national consensus by taking leaders of all political parties, including those in the opposition, and the armed forces into confidence over the emerging situation, he said.

Pakistan has also told India of the need for cooperation and sharing of evidence and information about the Mumbai attacks, he added.

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