Blair forges terror agreement in Pakistan

Tony Blair and Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf have agreed to work closer together to combat terrorism.

In a trip to Lahore, Mr Blair praised the “tremendous co-operation” demonstrated by Pakistan in tackling the terror threat, such as that posed by the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan.

At a press conference following the talks, the prime minister stressed that “nobody should be in any doubt” about the UK’s commitment to Afghanistan, claiming that it was of “fundamental importance” to global security to tackle the resurgence of the Taliban and “to stick with it and see the job through”.

But in a note of caution, General Musharaf warned that victory against the Taliban in Afghanistan, who were toppled from power by US-led forces in 2001, would not be achieved through military means alone.

“We need to put our house in order here on our side and make sure that this support is cut off,” he said, adding that a massive reconstruction programme was needed in eastern Afghanistan in order to defeat Taliban insurgency there.

Mr Blair, who described the talks as “immensely constructive” and praised the president for his “courage and his leadership” in taking his country through a “journey of change and modernisation”, also announced a doubling of UK development aid to Pakistan.

Some £480 million will be made available to Pakistan over the next three years, with part of the money being used to support General Musharraf’s education reforms – designed to counter the influence of Islamic religious schools, which are believed to be serving as breeding grounds for militants.

A further £8 million will be provided by the British government as part of a counter-terrorism package of technical assistance, which will support Pakistan in efforts to track down finance used to support terrorism and to launch preventative investigations.

Paying tribute to the efforts of Pakistan in tackling terrorism, Mr Blair described relations between the country and Britain as being at “their highest point for many years”.

“I think that we are seeing a strengthening of the relationship at every level, which I welcome enormously,” the prime minister said.